Raven Barkley in class at Charlotte Ballet

Todd Rosenberg, Courtesy Charlotte Ballet

How College Prepared Charlotte Ballet's Raven Barkley for a Dance Career—and a Future in Computer Science

This is one of a series of stories on recent graduates' on-campus experiences—and the connections they made that jump-started their dance careers. Raven Barkley graduated from SUNY Purchase with a BFA in dance with a concentration in ballet in 2015.

On a busy weekend during her senior year at SUNY Purchase, Raven Barkley attended a crowded open audition for Charlotte Ballet, which she'd been interested in for years. Despite her nerves, she felt prepared. "Purchase helped me get a job because it provided me with the tools that I needed to go out into the world," she says. After making it through the audition and company class a few weeks later, Barkley was offered a position with Charlotte Ballet II.


But before she graduated, she received an unexpected call from then–artistic director Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux telling her she was no longer in the second company. "I freaked out," Barkley says. Then he told her that she'd be skipping CBII to join the main company. "I was in total disbelief. After so many years of hard work, that was really a highlight of my life."

A male dancer in a white shirt and pants begins to do a handstand while a female dancer to his right steps high on demi pointe on her left foot and lifts her left arm above her head.

Barkley (right) in Bryan Arias' When Breath Becomes Air at Charlotte Ballet

Jeff Cravotta, Courtesy Charlotte Ballet

Behind the Scenes

During a dance production course at Purchase, Barkley learned how much it takes to put on a performance. She got to be a stagehand, design lighting and even operate the sound board. "I have so much respect for the production crew. Here at Charlotte Ballet, I love hanging out with the production staff."

Right Brain, Left Brain

In addition to expanding her dance training, Barkley discovered her love for computer programming during college. Because of her stellar academic performance, she was even asked to be a teaching assistant in a programming games course. She says, "I'm a huge computer science and math geek. It's something I definitely want to pursue after my dance career."

In a moody purple light, Raven Barkley twists and steps to the left on a bent right leg, crossing her left leg behind her and grabbing her right forearm with her left hand.

Todd Rosenberg, Courtesy Charlotte Ballet

Snow Queen

One of Barkley's favorite roles at Charlotte Ballet has been dancing the "Winter" soloist role in Sasha Janes' Four Seasons alongside male company members. "It was incredible because I really proved to myself that I possessed the same amount of strength as the men," she says. "I was flying through the air, doing double tours and all the things I love to do. It was really a moment for me to stand in my power. I felt like Elsa!"

Aspire to Inspire

One of Barkley's favorite quotes is "I aspire to inspire." "I hope that I can be a role model to the younger generations," she says. "Everybody says that college is a time where you truly get to know yourself, and I believe that. If I hadn't gone, I would never, in a billion years, have learned that I love computer science. You can go to college, get your degree and come out a professional dancer if that's what you want."

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Victoria Morgan with Cincinnati Ballet principal dancer Sirui Liu. Jennifer Denham, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet

After 25 Years, Victoria Morgan to Step Down as Cincinnati Ballet's Artistic Director

Last month, Victoria Morgan announced that she will step down as Cincinnati Ballet's artistic director at the conclusion of the 2021-22 season. The organization's board of trustees has formed a committee to conduct a national search for her replacement.

Prior to coming to Cincinnati Ballet in 1997, the Salt Lake City native was a principal dancer with San Francisco Ballet and Ballet West, as well as resident choreographer for the San Francisco Opera. She graduated magna cum laude from University of Utah, where she also earned her MFA, and has judged several international ballet competitions.

Entering her 25th and final season as director, Morgan has accomplished a lot at Cincinnati Ballet, not the least erasing the $800,000 in company debt she inherited at the outset of her tenure. To right the organization's financial ship she had to make tough choices early on—the first task the company's executive committee gave her was to release a third of the company's dancers. In her continuing effort to overhaul how the organization did business, in 2008 she became both the artistic director and CEO and set about building the company's now $14.5 million endowment. For the 2016–17 season, with the arrival of new company president and CEO Scott Altman, Morgan returned to being full-time artistic director and helped lead the realization of the organization's new $31 million home, the Margaret and Michael Valentine Center for Dance.

A champion of female choreographers, Morgan has also choreographed numerous ballets for the company, including world premieres of King Arthur's Camelot and The Nutcracker. She has also helped orchestrate several company collaborations, including 2013's Frampton and Cincinnati Ballet Live and joint productions with BalletMet.

Pointe caught up with Morgan to talk about her recent announcement.

Victoria Morgan is shown from the side standing on stage right, turning to smile at a line of costumed dancers to her left during bows. She wears a patterned green dress with chunky green high heels and holds a red rose in her hand.

Peter Mueller, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet

Why leave Cincinnati Ballet now?

It's been an amazing run and I have seen it all. I am not sure where I would go from here. I also feel there is a required stimulus and infusion of new ideas and energy that always needs to be a part of a growing, evolving and exciting arts organization.

What made you happiest at Cincinnati Ballet?

The people, from the devotion of patrons and donors to learning from and feeling the pride in work from the staff. It has also been so satisfying for me to choreograph on and watch so many dancers evolve in their dance careers and lives.

Were there things you wanted to do for the company that you weren't able to?

There were other collaborations I wanted us to explore and choreographers I wanted us to work with. It takes quite an investment to make those happen.

Your legacy includes actively creating opportunities for female choreographers. What motivated that?

I started realizing, in a profound way, the gender inequities in our art form. Because I was in a leadership position, I thought I could do something about this and try to get to a 50-50 balance of male and female choreographers. It took a little time to find women to step forward, but it happened. Now there are many more prominent female choreographers, including our resident choreographer Jennifer Archibald, and I am proud of that.

If you could handpick your successor, what qualities would you look for?

Somebody creative, charged up, and who can be visionary. Someone who has had a high-level experience in our art form. A leader who is demanding but also kind and supportive, and who opens doors to find new ideas while still embracing Cincinnati Ballet's philosophies.

What do you feel will be one of the biggest challenges for the new artistic director?

The important cause of DEIA (diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility). Whoever steps into that position has to have awareness of the culture of today's conversation.

Do you plan to keep choreographing?

I am not being proactive about it, but if the opportunity presents itself, it would be fun.

What's next?

I feel my next calling is bringing movement to the biggest segment of our population, baby boomers. I want to be part of an initiative that makes moving and wellness enjoyable and enlivens people.

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