Susan began dancing at a very young age, when she took lessons in ballet and tap. “ My passion was making up my own dances to any music that was playing on the stereo. I was an improvisation queen. As a pre-teen I organized neighborhood “shows” and carnivals that were held in the basement of my home or outside in my or a neighbors yard. In high school I was voted “Best Dancer” and still remember the thrill and satisfaction of dancing for hours at parties and school functions.”
Susan graduated from Southern Illinois University in 1988 with a degree in dance pedagogy. “ I was fortunate enough to be a one of the last students to be enrolled in the dance degree program at SIU. I was exposed to a variety of skilled dance teachers who hailed from all over the United States. The head of the department was Linda Kostalik, a former dancer with the San Francisco Ballet and an incredible and inspiring teacher, dancer, choreographer and mentor.”
This traditional dance form is a very exacting discipline that will make your body exceptionally strong and lithe. It is an excellent foundation for all types of dance. Ballet uses French names for positions and steps and dates back to the fourteenth century. George Balanchine is often considered to have been the first pioneer of contemporary ballet through the development of neoclassical ballet. Other well known dancers are Mikhail Baryshnikov, Alicia Markova, Anna Pavlova, and Margot Fonteyn.
This form of dance was developed as a reaction against Ballet and is traditionally done in barefeet. Many innovators such as: Isadora Duncan, Doris Humphrey, Martha Graham and Ted Shaw looked for new ways to dance and to break away from the "articifical mold" of Ballet. The results were drastically different from Ballet. The spirit of Modern dance is to experiment with movement and not restrict it to what's been done before.
Before and while in college Susan started teaching dance to a handful of students in Anna, Ill. Within two years she had started a dance business which grew rapidly. After graduation she expanded her business into Carbondale and maintained two studios. She moved from the basement of Great Shapes Fitness Center into 2031 S. Illinois Avenue..
Her latest move was into the current studio at 205 W. Willow in Carbondale, Ill. A new name was given to her business, which is now known as Willow Street Studios Inc. the home of Susan Barnes Dance. The facility is 8000 sq. feet and consists of 5 studios, one practice room, a Pilates studio, a dressing room, kitchen, girls and boys bathrooms, lobby and office. The dance floors are “floating” which serves as a cushion to prevent injury to the body.
A unique combination of classes in a variety of dance styles is offered to students from three years old to adult. Ballet, Pre-Ballet, Modern, Jazz, Hip hop, Tap, Pilates and Preschool dance curriculums are taught by Susan Barnes and other experienced and talented teachers.
Susan has taught thousands of people between three and sixty years old. As her business has mushroomed over the years she has outgrown three other studios in two different towns. With little advertising, her widespread reputation for teaching excellence has developed and spread through word of mouth from satisfied parents and students.
Often she will first meet children in the preschool dance classes at the age of three or four, and they will return for a variety of dance classes every year through the elementary grades into the high school and college years. Some of her students have gone on to major in dance in prestigious universities and have continued beyond the college years to pursue dance and related fields as their chosen careers.
For the last several years, Willow Street Studios has collaborated with the Southern Illinois Music Festival orchestra conducted by Ed Benyas to present the full length ballets – The Nutcracker, Coppelia, Romeo and Juliet – as part of the Southern Illinois Music Festival. The ballets have been directed by studio ballet instructor, Sydelle Fulk, with assistance from Susan Barnes and Toni Intravia, director of Creative Workshop. These ballets have venues in Carbondale at Shryock Auditorium and in Marion at The Marion Cultural and Civic Center.
This has been an excellent opportunity for local dancers to perform a variety of roles and be part of a professional production. The principle dancers have been pre-professional and professional dancers who have rehearsed and danced alongside the students. The experience has been an invaluable lesson about the dedication, discipline and amount of work required to make such a show happen. This arrangement will continue into the foreseeable future.
The studio dance company offers the opportunity for students to perform and learn repertoire in the styles of ballet, modern and jazz. New members are accepted at yearly auditions and if accepted they take a company class once a week. 2011 will be the third year the company has conducted a fundraiser, “Dancing for a Cause,” which highlights and benefits a local organization. We have performed in local schools and community events such as the Martin Luther King Jr. remembrance ceremony in Carbondale, Arts Education Festival at SIU, The Southern Illinois Dance Company annual shows, John A. Logan Celebrity Series.
All students 6yrs and up perform in the annual dance recital held at the end of the dance year on the stage of Shryock Auditorium on the campus of Southern Illinois University. Students ages 3, 4 and 5 yrs. have a less formal “showing” for parents, relatives and friends at the dance studio.
During the last ten years Susan has been a local sponsor for such prestigious dance companies as Gus Giordano Jazz Dance, Hubbard Street Dance, Pilobolus, Momix, Trisha Brown, Universal Ballet, River North Dance Company and David Parsons. As part of the sponsorship agreement, each company conducted dance workshops for local dancers at Willow Street Studios.
In an effort to enhance the training of studio students and teachers as well as expose them to the dance world beyond Southern Illinois, guest instructors are contracted to teach dance intensives. We have had such talented dancers as Alicia Canterna, a graduate of the Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington DC, Whitney Rippelmeyer Tucker and Patrick Ferreri, members of the David Dorfman dance company. Whitney is a former student and new co-owner of Studio 26 in New York City, Rhythm McCarthy, guest artist in residency at University of Arkansas in Little Rock, Tucker Barkley, Hip hop dancer featured in Dance Spirit Magazine. “It is my goal to continue to bring guest teachers to the studio and allow students and teachers to get excellent training at an affordable cost.”