By Kristen Kuchar (BA '11)
At age 28, Broadway dancer Hettie Barnhill is a sensation, both on and off the stage. A performer in the Tony Award-winning and Grammy-nominated show FELA! and the Tony-nominated Leap of Faith, Barnhill was honored with the NAACP Leaders Under 40 In The Field of Arts and Culture award 2011.
She also received the 2011 Rising Star award form the Young and Powerful for Obama Group for exceeding career expectations at such a young age, as well as for her devotion to community outreach, including work with A Long Walk Home, a nonprofit organization that uses art therapy and performing arts to end violence against women and girls. Barnhill was the only award winner representing the arts.
The St. Louis native attributes her success to hard work and to Columbia, which she was able to attend thanks to scholarships. She said the college led her down the right path and enhanced her connection to her passion: dance.
"You were able to bring your own energy to the class and discover it for yourself," Barnhill said, referring to courses instructed by Erica Wilson-Perkins, a source of inspiration. She learned both structure and improv at the same time, which later shaped her dancing. Diversity continues to be a part of Barnhill's style, as she performs modern, tap, jazz, and ballet.
Aside from Broadway performances and community work, Barnhill dances with The Just Movement Collective and Balance Dance Theatre, and has choreographed for MTV, BET, International Wow Theater, and NBC. She is also set to release her debut album, Stories of Vy Dixon, in 2012.