BIRMINGHAM BALLET

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Administration and Faculty

Cindy Free, Founding Executive and Artistic Director
Cindy Free began her dance training in Canton, Ohio under teacher and mother Suanne Ferguson. She first appeared with the Canton Civic Ballet under direction of John Begg. Upon moving to Birmingham, she performed professionally as the youngest member of the Birmingham Ballet directed by Alfonso Figueroa. Throughout her career she studied with many notable teachers including Robert Joffrey, Robert Barnett, and Gus Giordono. She attended the prestigious College-Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati and Birmingham-Southern College. In 2012, Ms. Free received certification in teaching methodology from the Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Moscow, Russia. She has been recognized by the National Ballet of Canada for completion of continuing education teacher training. Mrs. Free toured internationally with Up With People before she returned once again to the Birmingham stage with the Alabama Ballet Theatre. Mrs. Free has a heart for developing dancers and giving them the training and opportunities they need to achieve excellence. In 1991, she co-founded Birmingham Ballet Academy along with Suanne Ferguson and Janet Wolnski. In 1996,  she established the semi- professional performing company, Birmingham Ballet, which has since giventhousands of young dancers opportunity to perform in professionally produced productions. In 2009, she founded the professional Birmingham Ballet Repertory Company. The Repertory Company presents an eclectic repertoire of professional works by Mrs. Free as well as emerging choreographers and also gives advanced students from the Academy the important opportunity to apprentice next to professional dancers. Her students have received numerous honors including acceptance into highly competitive training programs with American Ballet Theatre - NYC, School of American Ballet - NYC, and the Russian Bolshoi Ballet Academy. Mrs. Free is known for creating visually stimulating productions that are “more than dance.” Her talent has been recognized with various awards including a Birmingham Obelisk nomination. Mrs. Free is a member of the Birmingham Chapter of National Society Arts and Letters.

Maria Bennett, Production Assistant
Maria Bennett is from Opelika, Alabama.  She studied music and education at Auburn University for three years then transferred to The University of Alabama her senior year to finish her degree.  Birmingham has been her home ever since then.  Maria has taught sixth and ninth grade science, elementary music and preschool music.  Also, Maria has done professional vocal work in Auburn and Birmingham Alabama.  Currently, she enjoys working on Birmingham Ballet productions and helps to keep the studio running clean and efficiently.

Marleigh Bristol, Faculty, Administration, and Dancer
Marleigh Bristol is originally from Traverse City Michigan, where she trained and performed with the Northwest Michigan Ballet Theatre. She earned a B.F.A. in Dance and a concentration in Psychology from Mercyhurst University where she was awarded both dance and academic scholarships, was a Deans List recipient, graduated with honors in association with National Honors Society of Dance Arts and graduated Magna Cum Laude. For four years Marleigh acted as an assistant to the dance department chair, Tauna Hunter, and as a part of the Mercyhurst Study Abroad Program danced and choreographed for a semester in Ireland. She has appeared with Traverse City Dance Project, as a guest artist with West Michigan Youth Ballet and performed in many musical productions. 

Anna Curtis, Faculty, Ballet Mistress
Anna Curtis graduated from the Eugene School of Ballet located in Oregon. Anna received scholarships to the American Academy of Ballet in New York and The Bolshoi Academy Satellite in Vail, Colorado. She attended the American Ballet Theatre summer Satellite program at the University of Alabama in 1996. Two years later, Anna competed in the VI USA International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Ms. Professionally, Anna toured with the Eugene Ballet and Hosanna Sacret Arts: she performed as a guest artist for the Dance Theatre of Oregon and danced with the Louisville Ballet and Montgomery Ballet. Anna also ran her own conservatory, Festival Ballet Arts in Chilton County. Anna has enjoyed being a resident guest artist for the Birmingham Ballet Academy. Roles included Snow Queen and the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Ballet Nutcracker, and Tiger lily in Peter Pan. Currently, Anna is enjoying her role as wife and mother while also teaching at Birmingham Ballet Academy.  

Suanne Ferguson, Faculty
Suanne Ferguson’s career of teaching dance spans more than six decades. She began teaching in Cleveland, Ohio, and then opened her own school, Avondale School of Ballet in Canton, Ohio. In 1965, she founded The Canton Civic Ballet, a company still thriving today. After moving to Birmingham in 1974, she became Director of the School of Birmingham Ballet and assistant to the Director Alfonso Figueroa. Later she became Director of Dance Ministries at Vestavia Hills United Methodist Church, and then Director of Children’s Dance Foundation. In 1991, she, Cindy Free and Janet Wolnski founded Dance Carousel which later became Birmingham Ballet Academy under current Artistic and Executive Director, Cindy Free. Living briefly in Orlando, FL, Suanne was Director of the School of Southern Ballet Theatre (now Orlando Ballet), and then, returning to Birmingham, she joined the staff of Birmingham Ballet Academy where she is proud to help to continue the mission of this company.