Mari O'Donnell

Executive and Artistic Director

Mari O’Donnell grew up in Fort Wayne, IN where she was trained in classical ballet at The Fort Wayne Ballet under the direction of Karen Gibbons-Brown. There, she passed the international Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) exam with honors.  Mari spent summers dancing at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Atlanta Ballet and Orlando Ballet (under the direction of the late Fernando Bujones). In 2000, Mari moved to Atlanta where she danced in the pre-professional division at the Atlanta Ballet- while at Atlanta Ballet she was chosen to represent the program in Beijing, China for a summer study with The Beijing Ballet.  In 2003, Mari returned to Fort Wayne to dance as a trainee at the Fort Wayne Ballet where the old ABT contemporary ballet “Le Combat” was set on her.  In 2006, Mari moved to New York City to train at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre where she graduated with a Certificate of Dance with honors. During her time at Ailey she performed in works by Earl Mosley, Milton Myers, Camille A. Brown, and Troy Powell, among others. She also travelled to Burgos, Spain under the direction of the late Kazuko Hirabayashi and competed and placed in an international competition in both contemporary dance and Hip-Hop.  In New York, Mari performed with DanceIquail!, The VonHoward Project, and was a guest artist for Earl Mosley’s Institute for the Arts, and The Albano Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker.  In January 2013, Mari began teaching at Barriskill Dance Theatre School, then became the Artistic Director in 2015 and Executive and Artistic Director in the summer of 2017. 

Kristin Clotfelter

Associate Artistic Director

​Kristin is a freelance artist who spent 14 years developing a movement practice in New York City.  She danced for nine seasons at The Metropolitan Opera in various productions by Robert LePage, Julie Taymor and Franco Zeffirelli, among others. She has collaborated and toured with Susan Marshall & Company, Johannes Wieland, Mark DeChiazza and Yaa Samar! Dance Theatre.  Kristin also spent summers performing at The Santa Fe Opera, a year dancing with the State Theater of Kassel in Germany, and performed as Lady MacDuff in Punchdrunk’s off-Broadway show, Sleep No More.  She has pursued her own performance language through residencies at Dance Omi International Arts Center and Fleet Moves Dance Festival and shown work in Brooklyn, Wellfleet, Ghent, Washington D.C. and Charlottesville.  She has taught master classes at Columbia College Chicago, The National Museum of Dance, Princeton University, American University and the University of Virginia as well as Parsons The New School for Design as a member of the Movement Party.  Kristin is interested in exploring the congruencies of improvisation, experimentation and classical technique and maintains a keen somatic curiosity.  She enjoys teaching and practicing yoga and holds a BFA with honors in dance and a minor in Visual Arts from the Alvin Ailey/Fordham University program.

Megan Ross

School Director

​Megan Ross grew up in Birmingham, Alabama where she studied ballet and modern dance at the Alabama School of Fine Arts (ASFA) under the direction of David Keener. During her time at ASFA Megan received the Dance Achievement Award in 2013 and performed works by Teri Weksler, Germaul Barnes, and Lisa Thomas. She graduated Magna Cum Laude with a B.A. in Dance Performance and French & Francophone Studies from Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. While at Muhlenberg, Megan presented choreography at the American College Dance Association (2017) and performed works by Randall Anthony Smith, Teresa VanDenend Sorge, and Jeffrey Peterson. Since moving to Durham Megan has presented choreography at the Richmond Dance Festival, Loose Leaves Dance Showcase, and North Carolina Dance Festival; and performed with Tobacco Road Dance Productions, SITES, and the KT Collective.

Liza Parker

Director of Muscial Theatre Program, Acting for TV and Film

​Liza began dancing at the age of 3 and never stopped.  She recently moved back to North Carolina after spending the last 10 years living in San Antonio, TX.  There she was the Artistic Director of LA Performing Arts and the Lead Choreographer of the Sensations Dance Company.  Liza has danced professionally with the Cascade Touring Theatre Company and as a character at Walt Disney World.  As a dancer at Disney she was fortunate to perform in numerous televised productions.  Liza also worked as a professional actress in LA for over 10 years. She has taught jazz, ballet, pointe, contemporary and musical theatre for over 20 years and is thrilled to continue teaching all the talented students at Barriskill. 

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Audrey Fenske

Audrey Fenske began her dance training at Bounds Dance Studio in Chapel Hill, NC. She continued her studies in high school at the Virginia School of the Arts under the late Petrus Bosman, and received the Service Award upon graduation. She received additional training with Houston Ballet, BalletMet Columbus, and Pilobolus. She graduated from Duke University as the university’s first Dance major with a double major in Developmental Psychology. While at Duke, Audrey received the Louis Sudler Prize in the Arts and the Julia Wray Memorial Award for her choreography and performance work.

Audrey has performed professionally with Keith Lee Dances, concorDance contemporary, Charlottesville Ballet, and Gaspard&Dancers. Audrey has also taught and performed as a freelance artist for numerous schools and groups in both Virginia and North Carolina. An advocate for the arts in the Southeast, Audrey has taught master classes for schools such as Piedmont Virginia Community College and community events such as the TomTom Founders Festival, and served on a panel discussion for the 2012 Virginia Film Festival.

Audrey’s choreography has been commissioned by groups including the Charlottesville Ballet, Duke University Dance Program, and the Nasher Museum of Art. Her work has been presented at various venues nationally, including the Piccolo Spoleto Festival in Charleston, SC; the Southeast Regional Ballet Association festival in Montgomery, AL; and at the 10th Annual Richmond Choreographers’ Showcase in Richmond, VA. Most recently, Audrey served as the Assistant Director for The Rockbridge Ballet in Lexington, VA. Audrey has been a committed dance teacher in NC and VA for over 10 years, and her students have gone on to study at UNCSA, Joffrey Ballet, Richmond Ballet, and more. Audrey is an ABT® Certified Teacher, who has successfully completed the ABT® Teacher Training Intensive in Pre-Primary through Level 3 of the ABT® National Training Curriculum.

Studio and Conservatory Ballet, Teen/Tween Jazz

Caroline Vance

Caroline Vance is from Durham, NC and has been teaching in dance studios across the triangle for the past 4 years. She graduated from UNC Chapel Hill in 2016 with degrees in English and psychology, and is currently a music and movement teacher at St. Stephen's Preschool. Caroline spent 13 years studying rhythm tap with Gene Medler at the Ballet School of Chapel Hill, and was a member of the North Carolina Youth Tap Ensemble (NCYTE) from 2008-2012. In 2016, she was brought on as NCYTE's co artistic director. Caroline has had the privilege of learning from some of the greatest tap dancers in the world at festivals across the US, and was recently given the opportunity to teach at the North Carolina Rhythm Tap Festival in Chapel Hill. This past year, Caroline has had the opportunity to perform with the Helen Hickey Dance Company at the Charlotte Dance Festival, as well as other local venues, and was featured in the 10th World Tamil Conference music video. She has a passion for dance and is thrilled to share that love with her students

Pre-School and Studio Tap

Chelsea Knapp

Chelsea Knapp studied at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, earning a degree in Music Education with a minor in Drama.  She has been teaching Musical Theater, Voice, and Piano at Barriskill Dance Theater for five years.  She has directed many shows through Barriskill, as well as Orange Community Players and Community Theater of Greensboro.  

Musical Theatre- Voice Instructor

Chris Strauss

A native of Oklahoma, Chris began dancing at the age of 5. There they studied and performed with the Norman Ballet Company under the direction of Marjorie Kovich and had the opportunity to spend summers studying ballet and modern dance with Tulsa Ballet, the University of Oklahoma, and the Oklahoma Summer Arts Institute at Quartz Mountain. Chris attended the University of Oklahoma where they continued their study of dance and performed professionally with Hartel Dance Group, under the direction of former Pilobolus artist, Austin Hartel. Upon graduation, they relocated to North Carolina to pursue a PhD in Quantitative Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. There, they attended the American Dance Festival in 2017, where they performed Merce Cunningham repertory staged by former company member Andrea Weber. They have performed works across the state and surrounding area with Tobacco Road Dance Productions, Megan Ross, and A+A Dance Company. Chris has taught ballet, modern, and contemporary dance since college and is excited to continue dance education with Barriskill!

Conservatory Ballet

Devin Sweet

A native of upstate New York, Devin Sweet began his dance training with the Fokine Ballet Company at the age of 4. He holds a BFA from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. During his 4 years at UNCSA, he performed works by world renowned choreographers such as George Balanchine's "Serenade," Jerome Robbins' "Fanfare," and Sir Fredrick Ashton's "Les Patineurs." 
He was selected to perform at the Guggenheim museum in New York City where he performed August Bournonville's "Jockey Dance." He was trained and coached for these roles by the expert faculty at UNCSA including Ethan Stiefel, Melissa Hayden, Warren Conover, Frank Smith, Gyula Pandi, Christine Spizzo, and Fanchon Cordell. His other instructors include Gillian Murphy, Damian Woetzel, Johan Kobborg, Kat Wildish and Slawomir Wozniak. 
As a professional, Devin has danced both contemporary and ballet companies and performing as a freelance artist across the East Coast. 
Devin started teaching in 2010 and has since been an active faculty member and guest instructor at schools throughout Virginia and North Carolina. His students have gone on to study with Richmond Ballet, Boston Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, The Joffrey Ballet, New York City Ballet, and many more. In addition to his B.F.A. he also is acrobatic arts certified.

Studio and Conservatory Ballet

Elliot Pack

​Elliot began his dance training as an adult at the Ballet School of Chapel Hill under M’Liss Dorrance and Jennifer Potts. He studied ballet with Ms. Dorrance,  and Ms. Potts for the next 25 years and owes his interest and fascination with dance kinesiology and its practical applications to the late Carol Richard. Elliot founded the school with partner Michael Barriskill with the hopes of using dance education to enhance the quality of his student’s lives not only through the more common external rewards of dance but also of the more elusive inner experience.  Elliot was one of the co-founders of Barriskill Dance Theatre School and retired in the summer of 2017.

Co-Founder, Adult Ballet

Heather Locke

Heather Rose Locke graduated Magna Cum Laude from the Boston Conservatory receiving a B.F.A. in dance.  She began her training at a young age in Durham, North Carolina where she played an active role in the Triangle Youth Ballet under the direction of Lauren Lorentz de Haas. In her junior year of high school, she attended Interlochen Arts Academy for the remainder of her high school years. She supplemented her training with distinguished programs including the Joffrey Ballet School, Joffrey Midwest Workshop, North Carolina Dance Theatre, and the American Dance Festival.  Upon completion of her Bachelor’s degree, she moved to Florida where she danced with Florida Dance Theatre for one season and Voci Dance for the following three seasons. After transitioning back to the Durham area, Heather performed and became assistant director of Blank Slate Dance. She currently teaches 7th grade ELA at Durham School of the Arts and lyrical/contemporary at Barriskill Dance Theater.

Studio and Conservatory Contemporary

Heather Pike

Heather Pike is a lifelong dancer who grew up in Wilmington, NC studying ballet. She has attended summer sessions at BalletMet and the Charlotte City Ballet as well as the American Dance Festival. Heather received her BFA in Dance Education from East Carolina University, graduating magna cum laude, and was awarded the Outstanding Senior Award in Dance Education. Since then she has taught various levels of ballet and creative dance in several different settings including Arts Together in Raleigh and the American Dance Festival's Samuel H. Scripps Studio in Durham. She has been an instructor at Barriskill Dance Theatre School going on twelve years in pre-ballet and conservatory level ballet. She is active in the local dance community and continues to train and perform around the region including her past work as director of Blank Slate Dance and performances at the Greensboro Fringe Festival and Richmond Dance Festival. Heather also works as a teaching artist for the Carolina Ballet through their educational outreach program, bringing dance to students in public schools including those with disabilities. Through her work as a teaching artist, she has presented at various conferences for organizations including ArtsR4Life, A+schools, and Arts Access Inc. Recently, she has been accepted into the United Arts Council Artists in Schools program. Heather is passionate about dance education and is always thrilled to be part of the Barriskill family!

Pre School and Conservatory Ballet

Helen Hickey

Helen Hickey is a teacher and dancer born in Chicago, IL and raised in Chapel Hill, NC. While growing up in Chapel Hill she had the opportunity to study with Gene Medler and was a member of The North Carolina Youth Tap Ensemble for five years. With NCYTE, she was able to travel all over the country and perform at many different venues including the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. She went to The University of North Carolina at Greensboro where she received her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance. There, she pursued her love for dance and cultivated her interest in choreography. She then attended Sarah Lawrence College where she received her Master of Fine Arts in Dance and had the opportunity to study with and perform for Sara Rudner, Emily Devine, Rose Anne Thom, Gwen Welliver, Jody Melnick, Maxine Sherman, Rashaun Mitchell and many others. In New York Helen was the assistant for Jody Sperling, Artistic Director of Time Lapse Dance Company, for one semester. She is currently teaching at Barriskill Dance Theatre School in Durham, NC; where she is the Director of the Tap Program and the Studio Musical Theatre Dance Teacher. She is also the Director and founder of Helen Hickey Dance Company as well as a Company Member with Footnotes Tap Ensemble. This is her fifth year teaching at Barriskill.  

Studio and Conservatory Tap, Studio Musical Theatre- Dance teacher

Jessica Reveal Norwood

Jessica grew up in Durham, dancing since the age of three at local studios and was lucky enough to find Barriskill during the first two years of its opening. She graduated from Peace College with a degree in Psychology and is currently pursuing her master's in General Psychology at North Carolina Central University while working as the Box Office Manager at Duke University. Teaching at Barriskill has been one of the most rewarding aspects of her life and hopes to continue for many more years!

Pre-School Ballet, Tap and Hippity Hop

Josh Wess

Josh was born in Tarboro, NC. Ever since he was a little boy he has had a passion for dance. He grew up on the music of some of the greats such as Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Prince, Missy Elliot and many more amazing artists. He has danced and choreographed in a dance group called "Dreams in Motion" which performed at numerous events including Women's Empowerment at the PNC Arena. He went on to dance for Elevate Dance and Production Company where he was promoted to lead choreographer. Elevate performs for major events and has worked with major celebrities such Cam Newton, Gary Payton, Terrell Owens, Genuine, just to name a few.

Josh is also a makeup artist and building a strong fan base in the art of female illusion and work with many entertainers from the hit show RuPaul's Drag Race. 

Studio and Conservatory Hip Hop

JoAnna Langston

JoAnna Langston graduated from Elon University with a B.A. in Elementary Education and Spanish. She taught kindergarten and first grade for many years before she opened her own preschool. JoAnna teaches tap and musical theatre at Barriskill and has been a teacher there for 8 years. She was previously a member of Footnotes Tap Ensemble and has trained with tapping legends such as Brenda Bufalino, Dorothy Wasserman, and many more! JoAnna enjoys dancing, singing,and spending time with her family!

Pre-School and Studio Musical Theatre and Tap

Kim Fox

Originally from Pennsylvania, Kim relocated to North Carolina in 2006 and is a graduate from Leesville High School. Kim loves to teach jazz, hip hop, and contemporary. She has attended N-house conventions and has guest performed in Disney. She currently teaches at North Carolina Dance Insititute and is thrilled to become a part of the Barriskill family! 

Studio and Teen Jazz

Leigha Hofmann

Leigha Hofmann is a senior at Voyager Academy High School and has been dancing at Barriskill for the last 10 years. She has also been a part of Barriskill's studio company for the last 3 years. She has trained in ballet, pointe, contemporary, modern, afro-fusion, West African, improvisation, and dance composition. She trained with American Dance Festival’s Pre-Professional Dance Intensive during the summers of 2018 and 2019, as well as their online intensive this past summer. Aside from dancing at Barriskill, Leigha has been a part of her high school’s competitive show choir, Bull City Lights, since her freshman year of high school where she competes in regional and national competitions along the east coast and throughout the midwest. She loves working with young children and is very excited to teach at Barriskill this year!

Studio Ballet

Marie Hopkins

Marie began dancing at the age of 8 studying ballet, tap, jazz, and modern dance in her hometown of Queens, NY. Marie trained at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center in New York City for five years before joining the Alvin Ailey American Summer Institute as an Intern in 1992 studying Graham, Horton and Dunham techniques. She graduated from Penn State University in 1995 with a Bachelor of Arts degree and a minor in Interdisciplinary Dance. While at Penn State she was the Artistic Dance Director of Nommo Performing Arts Company. Marie was a member of the regional NA’ADE in Philadelphia, performing traditional African and Modern Dance from 1995-1997. She performed at Carnegie Hall in New York City as a member of the Rosemarie Linddt Dance Company during the 1998-1999 season. She moved to North Carolina in 2000 where she began teaching dance locally and performing with Bellan Contemporary Dance Theatre. Marie has been teaching dance in Durham City Public Schools for the past 14 years, and lives in Durham with her husband James and their two children, Lincoln and Nolan.


Michael Barriskill

Michael Barriskill, began his career at age 10, dancing with Rudolf Nureyev at the Metropolitan Opera House and went on to dance many soloist roles as a member of Houston Ballet from 1984-1988. He made his Broadway debut in 1989 as Mr. Mistoffelees in CATS. After two years in the National Tour of Cats, Mr. Barriskill received his Master of Fine Arts from Southern Methodist University. Since retiring from performing in 2000, Michael has enjoyed success in a variety of professions including manager at Nordstrom, arts administrator, and concierge. Currently, Michael is a licensed massage therapist and owns Mindful Massage in Durham.  

Co-Founder, Visiting Instructor

Roxane Lessa

Roxane had her initial dance training at the Boston Ballet with Sydelle Gomberg and Boston Ballet Faculty and performed in the Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker production annually. Her initial training was in the Cecchetti syllabus and in later years she was trained under the Royal Academy of Dance syllabus and exams. She attended high school at the Walnut Hill School of Performing Arts in Natick, Mass. Following high school, Ms. Lessa studied for two years at the Royal Ballet School in London prior to moving to New York where she trained with Finis Jhung, David Howard and Maggie Black.  She has danced professionally with Finis Jhung, The Washington Ballet, Eliot Feld Ballet, and Minnesota Dance Theater.

Studio and Conservatory Ballet

SarahAnne Perel

SarahAnne Perel grew up in New York, attending the School of American Ballet from 2004-2014. During her time there she performed in countless productions with the New York City Ballet, including Nutcracker, Coppelia, and Circus Polka. While at SAB, she attended summer programs at San Francisco Ballet, Miami City Ballet, and Pacific Northwest Ballet among others. SarahAnne also had the opportunity to study under Suzanne Farrell for three summers at the Kennedy Center in D.C. She graduated from SAB and Professional Children’s School in 2014. SarahAnne then joined Los Angeles Ballet as a Corps de Ballet member. While in LAB, she performed works by George Balanchine, Sir Frederick Ashton, and the Artistic Directors: Colleen Neary and Thordal Christensen. Her favorites were Don Quixote and Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2. She has taught ballet at the School of American Ballet, Los Angeles Ballet School, and Triangle Day School. In 2016, she attended Duke University and is now a senior. At Duke, SarahAnne has continued to dance with Los Angeles Ballet, Carolina Ballet, and the Duke Dance Program. She is majoring in International Comparative Studies with minors in Dance and Spanish. SarahAnne is the Artistic Director of Devils en Pointe (DEP) which is a student run ballet group on campus. In May 2018, she received the Clay Taliaferro Award from the Duke University Dance Department. 

Conservatory Ballet

Traci Curtis

Traci Curtis began dancing at age 4, studying tap, jazz, and ballet. She has worked as an instructor in studios in western North Carolina, and has experience as chief makeup artist for musical theatre productions. Traci has three daughters and teaches pre-ballet and pre-tap classes at Barriskill.

Pre-School Ballet and Tap

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