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."

Latest Posts


Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB

NYCB's Maria Kowroski Reflects on the Challenges, Joys and Mysteries of Balanchine’s "Mozartiana"

The first time I was called to learn Mozartiana, I didn't think I would actually get to do it. It's a coveted ballerina role in the company, and I was still early in my career. But I got to dance it once or twice, and then not again for many years. The ballet isn't in our repertoire that often, so each time we've performed it I've been at a different level as a person and as an artist.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Getty Images

Ask Amy: How Can I Overcome My Fear of Pirouettes on Pointe?

I have a terrible fear of falling when doing turns on pointe. I sometimes cry in class when we have to do new turns that I'm not used to. I can only do bad singles on a good day, while some of my classmates are doing doubles and triples. How can I get over this fear? —Gaby

Keep reading SHOW LESS
xmb photography, Courtesy The Washington Ballet

The Washington Ballet's Sarah Steele on Her At-Home Workouts

Ballet at home: Since she's not preparing for any immediate performances, Steele takes ballet barre three to four times a week. "I'm working in more of a maintenance mode," she says, prioritizing her ankles and the intrinsic muscles in her feet. "If you don't work those muscles, they disappear really quickly. I've been focusing on a baseline level of ballet muscle memory."

What she's always working on: Strengthening her glute-hamstring connection (the "under-butt" area), which provides stability for actions like repetitive relevés and power for jumps. Bridges are her go-to move for conditioning those muscles. "Those 'basic food group'–type exercises are some of the best ones," she says.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks