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 Carrion

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.

Grace McCoy

Grace McCoy moved to Columbia recently and has already become an integral part of the CBS family. Her credentials in classical ballet include her training and performance at Tulsa Ballet, as well as two Top 12 awards in the Youth America Grand Prix. She also is a certified Hatha Yoga teacher, and she has earned a bachelor’s degree of fine arts in studio art from Northeastern State University. This is her first year with CBS, teaching ballet and contemporary.

Stephanie Reeves

Stephanie Reeves is a CBS alumna who has returned to teach adult ballet. She also has worked with our Nutcracker productions both as a choreographer and as a production manager. Stephanie also is the office manager. She has worked with CBS for six years.

Jessica Thomas

For Jessica Thomas, ballet is a family affair. She began her ballet training under her grandmother, Nan Klinger, with the Cuyahoga Valley Youth Ballet (currently Ballet Excel Ohio) in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.  She attended Coker College. Jessica is ballet mistress of the CBS company, and she works tirelessly in preparation for The Nutcracker. This is her third year with CBS, teaching ballet

Emily Kavenagh

Emily Kavenagh, a dancer with Columbia Classical Ballet, is working with our youngest students. She manages and teaches our satellite program at area day schools, and she teaches pre-ballet and primary ballet classes. Emily is from Ohio and trained with Jessica Thomas’s mother. She will graduate from the University of Cincinnati in December with a bachelor’s degree in ballet performance.

– GUEST FACULTY –

Terrance Henderson

Terrance Henderson is the creative force behind an abundance of performance art in Columbia. He formed Vibrations Dance Company which performed for more than 10 years, and then he developed T.O. Henderson Dance Incorporated (To Dance, Inc). Terrance was the 2009 Artist Fellow for the State in Dance Performance and later that same year received the Bronze Leo Award for Outstanding Jazz Choreography at the Jazz Dance World Congress in Chicago – a first for a choreographer from South Carolina. Terrance has served as choreographer and director for many productions at Trustus Theatre, and he has been a performer in shows such as Smokey Joes Cafe, Hair, and Rent. Terrance has played Drosselmeyer in all CBS productions of The Nutcracker, where he is the narrator. He has been an artist in residence in Richland One public schools and most recently has been dance coordinator at Midlands Arts Conservatory. In 2016, Terrance received the Stephen G. Morrison Visionary Award from the group One Columbia for Arts and Culture.

Sarah Joan Smith

Sarah Joan Smith is a CBS alumna who will join the Richland Ballet Company this fall after two years at the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. She began her training at the age of eight in Kiev, Ukraine, before her family moved to Columbia. She graduated from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in 2012. Following her graduation, she performed as a trainee with Boston Ballet and Boston Ballet II. In 2013, Sarah Joan joined Richmond Ballet’s second company and then joined Kansas City Ballet in 2016. In 2015, she toured to China with Richmond Ballet, and she has also been a dancer with the Kansas City Dance Festival and the National Choreographers Initiative. It is a pleasure to have Sarah Joan teach for our summer intensives.

Enrico Hipolito

Enrico Hipolito will join Richmond Ballet this fall after being in the Kansas City Ballet company for three years. He is from Seattle, WA. Rico began his training with Pacific Northwest Ballet School on a full scholarship. Upon graduating from the PNB School, he trained at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet for two years through the male scholarship program. Rico then joined Ballet West II in 2015 and danced there for two years. Rico is in his second year with our summer intensive faculty.

James Velasco

James Velasco, based in Los Angeles, is from Columbia and attended the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and AMDA (The American Musical and Dramatic Academy). He trained at Southern Strutt in Columbia. He is a songwriter, recording artist, choreographer, and musical theatre performer, most recently in the smash hit Newsies.  His music is available on Spotify.  James is in his second year with our summer intensive faculty. 

Journy Wilkes-Davis

Journy Wilkes-Davis is in his second year as a company member of Alabama Ballet having previously been with American Repertory Ballet in New Jersey. In 2008, Journy joined the Columbia Classical Ballet. In 2010, Journy moved to the Columbia City Ballet under the direction of William Starrett, where he was promoted to principal dancer in 2012.  In 2016, he co-directed, choreographed, and danced in the H.E.R.O. Dance Benefit which partnered with Columbia Music Festival Association to bring professional dancers together for an evening of dance to support and honor our nation’s military. In 2016, Journy was awarded the South Carolina Art’s Commission Fellowship for Dance. This is his second year teaching with the CBS summer intensive.