Briarwood Ballet, under the direction of Barbara Barker, began in 1980 in the former location of Briarwood Presbyterian Church on Highway 280. There were approximately 45 students the first year and enrollment has gradually increased to over 500 students housed in well-equipped studios at the church’s current location. Over 8,000 students are estimated to have passed through the school in the last 42 years. The Ballet is a board directed ministry of Briarwood Presbyterian Church and is a separate ministry from Briarwood Christian School.
NOT YOUR ORDINARY BALLET SCHOOL
Classes at Briarwood Ballet are offered in progressive levels and include creative movement, pre-ballet, classical ballet, and modern, for three-year-olds through high school. Ballet for ages K4-4th grade classes is also offered at the 119 campus. An annual spring performance offers older students performing experience and is open to the community at large. Scholarships are offered to students on the basis of need.
The student population is made up of approximately one-third Briarwood-related (church or school) students and two-thirds from the community at large. Many different school systems are represented and some students travel from as far away as an hour and a half’s drive because of the school’s reputation.
The performing arm of the Intensive Division, Ballet Exaltation, presents concerts that reach out to school, church, and civic organizations. They have performed locally in the Birmingham area and around the Southeast. The company has danced at large conferences in Atlanta, Georgia, and Vail, Colorado, and been featured in Brio, a national magazine for teenage girls. In addition, since 1993, Ballet Exaltation has toured Kazakhstan, Russia, Spain, Brazil, Korea, Japan, Sweden, China, Cuba, and Peru. For two weeks in 1994, a dance group from St. Petersburg, Russia, was hosted by Briarwood Ballet. An invitation has been extended to return to Japan and Korea. They have participated in Project Dance Atlanta and Project Dance Kansas City.
Immanuel, the performing group from the Enrichment Division, was formed in 2000 to give performance opportunities to older students not in the Intensive Division. Members of this group were part of a mission to Northern Ireland for several summers. They, also, have performed at Project Dance Atlanta and Project Dance Greenville SC.
Other outreach and educational programs of the school have included a Teacher’s Workshop with attendees from both east and west coasts. Programs that partner with and reach out to the African-American community have included summer satellite programs in inner-city locations, dance troupe exchanges with African-American churches, free concerts for inner-city organizations, and financial aid for deserving students.
Briarwood Ballet enjoys an excellent reputation among the dance community of Birmingham. Our students have been accepted into many prestigious summer ballet programs including those of American Ballet Theater, New York City Ballet’s School of American Ballet, Boston Ballet, Houston Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Rock School of the Pennsylvania Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet, Joffrey, Nashville Ballet, and Ballet Magnificat. Several graduates have gone on to college ballet programs at Indiana University, Butler University, Belhaven College, and Huntington. Some former students have danced professionally at companies such as Alabama Ballet, Nashville Ballet, San Diego City Ballet, Eugene Ballet/Ballet Idaho, Ballet Magnificat, and Hosanna Sacred Arts.