A Tribute to celebrate the legacy of Thea Barnes 

Thea Nerissa Barnes trained with the best. She left Chicago to study with Arthur Mitchell’s Dance Theatre of Harlem. In New York, she also trained with Igor Schwezoff and celebrated Dance Africa founder Chuck Davis. A disciplined, physically and emotionally expressive dancer with a love for technique and attention to its detail, she joined the historic Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. She later joined the legendary Martha Graham Dance Company where she became a principal dancer and soloist for whom Graham choreographed the critically acclaimed work ‘Song.’ Described as “compelling” and “spectacular” by The New York Times, Barnes earned rave reviews and graced international dance magazine covers. One of the few Black female principals in a major American dance company, Barnes was a trailblazer who embraced the opportunity to challenge convention and open doors for others to advance the legacy of Black people in dance.

Her talent and commitment to excellence made her a much-respected artist. Barnes was a soloist and guest performer with esteemed American companies including Julian Swain Inner City Dance Theatre, Joseph Holmes Dance Theatre, Fred Benjamin Dance Company, and Alfred Gallman’s Newark Dance Theatre (GNDT). She also performed in Broadway, film, and television productions, and even staged productions for her own company, Dancer’s Eye, Inc. 


In England she taught Graham Technique at Northern School of Contemporary Dance, Urdang Academy, and Laban Centre.  She became the Artistic Director of Phoenix Dance Theatre, and in 2001, she accepted the role of Resident Dance Supervisor for Disney’s West End production of The Lion King musical a role she held until 2018. 

The Fund

The Thea Barnes Legacy Fund (TBLF) is a donor supported independent fund established in 2019 and launched on 12 August 2019 to support individuals in creative areas that reflect Thea’s interest in arts and academia. Interests include:


  • Dance & Performing Arts 

  • Academic researchers in arts and creative industries 

  • Mentoring / guidance for those in arts and creative industries 


The fund is established with donations given in memory and in support of Thea Barnes’ legacy, by people known to Thea and advocates of the creative industries.