Iona has over 20 years of teaching experience and has operated the school for over 10 years. Her training began when she was 6 years old at the Sammy Dyer School of Dance. She learned ballet, tap, jazz, tumbling and theater under the direction of Ms. Shirley Hall Bass, Russell Talbert, Elaine Blair, and Ted Levy. She went on to train at Ruth Paige School of Ballet and Chicago City Ballet under the direction of Maria Tallchief. Ms. Calhoun-Battiste received dance scholarships to The Dance Theater of Harlem and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City. She received further professional training under the tutelage of Homer Hans Bryant and later became a founding member of The Chicago Multi-Cultural Dance Center (CMDC), formally known as " The Bryant Ballet Company" from 1990- 1994. Ms. Calhoun- Battiste currently holds a Masters in Developmental Psychology from Columbia University in New York City. Her Bachelor's degree is from Howard University in Psychology. Ms. Calhoun has been able to fuse her love for children's psychology with her passion for dance and ballet in specific. She has had extensive experience with children, and has worked as a child psychotherapist for the last 10 years.
Dancer, Choreographer Erin Barnett is a native of Chicago, IL. She began her formal dance training at the age of six at Mayfair Dance Academy and has never looked back. Erin was exposed to every form of dance but by age nine decide to focus her attention to ballet. In 1987, Erin was selected to be the first African American “Clara” in the Chicago Tribune Charities Production of the Nutcracker. Choreographed by Ruth Page and directed by Larry Long, Ms. Barnett was fascinated by the pulse of live art. While under the tutelage of Larry Long and Homer Bryant, she had the opportunity to perform in “Etudes” with American Ballet Theater. As much as she adored the technical challenges of contemporary ballet she was equally exhilarated by jazz, tap, and cheerleading winning several first place Showstopper Awards as well as first place USCA awards. The positive competition gave Erin the confidence she needed when competing for the title of Miss District of Columbia. Continuing her academic studies as a dance major at Howard University opened the door to the world of modern dance. Upon graduation, Erin earned a position with Garth Fagan Dance traveling and performing original works all over the world. Working with Bessie and Tony award winning Fagan, Erin, “a ballerina in disguise” Dance Magazine Feb 2001, didn’t go unrecognized by patrons and critics nationally and abroad. Toby Tobias of the New Yorker Magazine says, Erin Barnett, born to dance, is striking...every movement she makes is physically charged with feeling. I could watch her forever, doing anything. Once you lay eyes on her, even when she’s operating on the outskirts of the action you can barely see anyone else on stage” (November 2000). Erin enjoys sharing her experiences with young dancers and was very proud to have taught at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy while living in Los Angeles. Ms. Barnett was a guest artist with The Philadelphia Dance Company for three years. She danced with Karole Armitage in Lincoln Center Outdoors Series and after performing eight shows a week as “Sarafina” in Disney’s The Lion King in Las Vegas, she is finally back in Chicago! Ms. Barnett is currently on staff at Lou Conte Dance Studio, Mayfair Dance Academy, and Iona Calhoun School of Ballet.