Columbia Ballet School

Faculty

Columbia Ballet School

Faculty

More than 40 years ago, Columbia Ballet School opened in a small studio in Five Points. Its goal then, and its purpose now, is to help young dancers develop technical skills, artistry, discipline, self-confidence, and respect for themselves and others. While these qualities are the basis for dance education, they also are critical to the development of the student as a person. We want our dancers to be happy, healthy people who want to improve the world. Some might be professional dancers, but many more will grow to be, quite simply, good people.

More than 40 years ago, Columbia Ballet School opened in a small studio in Five Points. Its goal then, and its purpose now, is to help young dancers develop technical skills, artistry, discipline, self-confidence, and respect for themselves and others. While these qualities are the basis for dance education, they also are critical to the development of the student as a person. We want our dancers to be happy, healthy people who want to improve the world. Some might be professional dancers, but many more will grow to be, quite simply, good people.

Anita Ashley

Founder and Artistic Director

Anita Ashley founded Columbia Ballet School in 1980.  With over 50 years’ teaching experience, she has served as founder and director of the state’s first professional ballet company, South Carolina Ballet Theatre, and is one of the founders of Ann Brodie’s Carolina Ballet.   She has taught classical ballet, jazz and theatre dance at USC, USC Aiken, Columbia College, South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities, Eglevsky Ballet, and North Carolina School for the Arts.   Her students have gone on to successful careers in ballet companies such as Louisville Ballet, Kansas City Ballet, Bebe Miller, Boston Ballet, Eglevsky Ballet, and Royal Winnipeg Ballet.  Other students have found success in film, television, music, and Tony Award winning Broadway productions.  Her students have been National Finalists at Youth America Grand Prix five times. 

Ms. Ashley’s choreography has been performed throughout the Southeast, Michigan, Ohio and Canada, as well as by Ann Brodie’s Carolina Ballet, Columbia Classical Ballet, Artists for Africa, Town Theatre, Workshop Theatre and Trustus Theatre, where she was a company member. Her choreography has received positive reviews in Dance magazine and she was featured in Dance Teacher magazine. She was awarded the Maria Tallchief Award for Excellence by the Eastern Cherokee Nation.

Joy Alexander

Joy Tworzyanski Alexander has been part of the dance fabric of Columbia since she began her training at Calvert-Brodie. She attended AMDA (The American Musical and Dramatic Academy) in New York, where she studied for both stage and film, and she has numerous acting, dancing, and choreography credits.  She returned to South Carolina in 2006, and she has been teaching and performing ever since. Her specialties include tap and musical theatre.

Nicole Millwood

Nicole Carrion, a native of Columbia, started her ballet training at the age of four at the Columbia Conservatory of Dance under the instruction of William Starrett and Mariclare Miranda, and her connection to Columbia City Ballet continues; she now is a demi-soloist with the company. Nicole’s emphasis on classical ballet contributes to her teaching excellence and to her work with developing young dancers. She is an integral part of the CBS production of The Nutcracker through setting pieces and coaching dancers.   Nicole is a CBS Artist-In-Residence, in recognition of her many contributions to the studio.

Ashley Concannon

Ashley Concannon is a multi-faceted artist. She is a demi-soloist with Columbia City Ballet, and she is also a professional photographer, specializing in dance photography. She is the photographer of the Facebook page “Through the Dancer’s Eyes,” which highlights a behind-the-scenes look at the life of professional dancers, and she took many of the photos on this website. Ashley’s dedication to the art of dance shows in her coaching and her choreography. This is Ashley’s fourth year with CBS, teaching ballet.

Kiyomi Mercadante Ramirez

Kiomi Ramirez is a dance educator with more than 28 years of experience, and she is a professional dancer with more than 19 years of performance experience. She is a fellow with the Cecchetti Council of America –one of only 50 in the United States. Her dance styles include ballet, contemporary, and jazz, and she is a renowned choreographer as well as teacher and dancer. She is married to her dance partner, Eduardo Ramirez, and together they have four beautiful children and yes, the whole family dances. She continues to teach, choreograph, and dance throughout the area.

Cindy Flach

Cindy Flach is a fixture in the Columbia theatre and dance community, and she has a strong following with her Saturday morning adult tap classes. Cindy teaches at the University of South Carolina. She has choreographed countless musicals in Columbia.

Gabrielle Gardner

Gabrielle Gardner, a native of Columbia, South Carolina, trained with the Columbia Conservatory of Dance under the tutelage of William Starrett and Mariclare Miranda. She will teach ballet and contemporary at Columbia Ballet School.
 
Gabrielle joined the apprentice group to the South Carolina Ballet when she was 10, performing major roles (e.g., Clara in Nutcracker and Victoria Harker in Dracula) in cities across the Southeast. She is currently a Soloist with William Starrett’s South Carolina Ballet. She attended the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities and competed in both Youth America Grand Prix and Grand Jeté. She attended summer intensives at American Ballet Theatre in New York City, Bolshoi Ballet Academy, Ballet West, Miami City Ballet, and Atlanta Ballet.