Owner/Artistic Director Exclusively Ballet & Dance
A graduate of the University of Alabama at Birmingham received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Dance and English. Monica began her formal training in 1970 under the direction of Stevan and Melanie Grebel at The University of Alabama Birmingham. Monica was named principal dancer at Ballet UAB from 1971-1981 while pursuing her degree. Monica began teaching ballet at the age of 17, where she taught at UAB in the community school located at the University. Monica’s professional career as a principal dancer with The Alabama Ballet began in 1981 under the direction of Sonia Arova and Thor Sutowski she performed leading roles such as the “Sugar Plum Fairy” from the “Nutcracker”, the “Swan Queen” in “Swan Lake,” “Juliet” in “Romeo and Juliet,’ and “Cinderella” in “Cinderella”. She has performed throughout Europe and studied in Cannes, France at the Centre de Dance International with Rosella Hightower, Jose Ferrand, Elena Tchernichova and Patricia Neary. Summer studies were spent in New York with Robert Denvers, Melissa Hayden and David Howard.Monica has sat on the Board of Trustees at The Alabama Ballet where she was an active supporter and continues to support the current Artistic Director and her staff.
Melissa Thomas DeLong began her ballet training at Children’s Dance Foundation in Birmingham, Alabama, taking from Tara Fasshauer and Carolyn Rabbani. As an adolescent, she trained at the Alabama Ballet School, under the instruction of Wes Chapman and Roger Vanfleteren, after which she joined the Alabama Ballet as an apprentice. After performing with The Alabama Ballet for two years, she became a member of American Ballet Theatre, at the age of seventeen. During her eight years at ABT, Mrs. DeLong danced a variety of roles in all of the company’s classical repertoire, including, but not limited to, the Pas de Tois and Big Swans in Swan Lake, an Odalisque in Le Corsaire, the Shades Trio in La Bayadere, Bathilde and Moyna in Giselle, Queen of the Dryads in Don Quixote, and the Charity Fairy in The Sleeping Beauty. In addition to the above, she performed principal parts with ABT, including the role of Caroline in Antony Tudor’s Jardin aux Lilas, Polyhemnia in Balanchine’s Apollo, and Snow Queen in The Nutcracker. Mrs. DeLong had new works created on her by choreographers, such as Benjamin Millepied, Lori Stallings, Natalie Weir, Robert Hill, Peter Quanz, David Parsons, Stanton Welch, and Twyla Tharp. After her time at ABT, Mrs. DeLong completed her undergraduate education in psychology at Columbia University and went on to earn a masters degree in social work from New York University. She is very excited to join the faculty at Exclusively Ballet and share her background with such wonderful students and artists.
Grant DeLong was born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania and began his ballet training with Marcia Dale Weary at the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet at the age of ten. He received numerous scholarships while attending Regional Dance America festivals. In 2001 and 2002, DeLong attended the School of American Ballet’s summer programs on full scholarship. DeLong joined American Ballet Theatre’s Studio Company in September 2002 and the main Company as a member of the corps de ballet in April 2004. His repertory with the Company includes the Rajah in La Bayadère, a Cavalier in Frederick Ashton’s Cinderella, Lorenzo inDon Quixote, Demetrius in The Dream, the Duke in Giselle, Her Lover in Jardin aux Lilas, the Duke in Lady of the Camellias, Rakitin in A Month in the Country, the Spanish Dance in Alexei Ratmansky’s The Nutcracker, Paris in Romeo and Juliet, a Celestial in Shadowplay, the English Prince in The Sleeping Beauty, the Spanish Dance and the Neapolitan Dance inSwan Lake, Gonzalo in The Tempest and roles in Amazed in Burning Dreams, Company B, Dark Elegies, Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes, Everything Doesn’t Happen at Once, Gong,The Leaves are Fading, Some Assembly Required and Sinfonietta. He created a role in One of Three.
Sara Childers – a graduate of Birmingham Southern College with a degree in Dance and English. Sara’s early training began with Frances Armstrong in Bluff Park. At Birmingham Southern, Sara trained under Mira Popavich, Ruth Henry and Teri Weskler. As a young dancer Sara was awarded scholarships to Steps in New York City and Joffery Ballet School. While at Birmingham Southern, Sara performed various pieces of choreography under Teri Weskler, Marcus Alford and many more. Sara joined the Exclusively Ballet & Dance Family in 2008. Since then she has worked intensely with the performing company and has taught many different levels and disciplines. Sara is a member of Dance Educators of America and has participated in their competitions & conventions for 15 years. In 2013 Sara’s choreography was awarded 2nd place on a national level and 4th runner up to Miss Junior DEA. Her choreography has competed with NYCDA, COdance, Dance Educators of America, Star Systems and many more. Sara also has experience doing choreography for Miss Alabama and the Distinguished Young Women program.
Jamie Zarrilli Grimes started her dancing at the age of three in Huntsville, AL and has been teaching and choreographing for fifteen years throughout Alabama, having been with the staff of Exclusively Ballet and Dance since fall 2004. In August 2004, she received a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in Dance and a minor in Theatre from the University of Alabama. At UA, she was a member of the Alabama Repertory Dance Theatre and Dance Alabama where she performed soloist roles in the ballets Paquita and Raymonda among many others. She also earned scholarships for five American Ballet Theatre Summer Intensives, the SFA Dance/Theatre Gift Scholarship, and the Dancer Award for excellence. In 2004, Jamie had the honor of performing at the “Sharing the Legacy” concert held at Hunter College in New York City where she performed original choreography by Isadora Duncan and Anna Sokolow. Her theatre studies led to roles in Jesus Christ Superstar, West Side Story, and Ragtime. In Birmingham, she has performed and choreographed with CenterStage Productions including dancing the lead role in 42nd Street. In 2006, Jamie’s choreography for Exclusively Ballet and Dance was selected for the Panoply Choreography Competition finals. From 2007-2009, Jamie served as the Director of Dance for the Shades Valley Theatre Academy at Shades Valley High School where she created numerous pieces of award winning original choreography for their theatre department under the direction of Roy Hudson. Her choreography was presented internationally at the Fringe Festival in Edinburg, Scotland in the summer of 2009. Jamie is currently living in Vestavia Hills with her husband Charley and their two boys. She loves sharing the art of dance with her students, and is thrilled to be a part of the Exclusively Ballet and Dance family.
Amanda Burch Neece began training in classical ballet at the age of three. She has had the privilege of training with many schools in the Birmingham area including: Jackie O’Neal School of Dance, Briarwood Ballet, Exclusively Ballet, Birmingham Dance Theatre, Grebel Dance, and the Alabama Ballet School. She began performing with The Alabama Ballet at the age of ten and also had the opportunity to train with American Ballet Theatre in Orange County and New York City for three summers. She spent two years studying as a dance major at The University of Alabama and is currently a Company Member of “The Alabama Ballet”.
Tiffany Lunsford Davidson began dancing at the age of four in Dothan, Alabama at Dothan School of Dance with Tracey Mitchell. After moving to Birmingham in the third grade, she continued her studies at Briarwood Ballet under the direction of Barbara Barker, Peggy Cook and Regina Eaton. At the beginning of her freshman year of high school she was accepted into the Alabama School of Fine Arts (ASFA) where she studied under Sonia Arova, Thor Sutowski and Therese Laeger. After deciding that the “professional ballerina path” was not for her she withdrew from ASFA and decided to take a break from dancing for a while. However, one day her mother came home with a flyer for a new dance studio owned and operated by Monica Barnett-Smith. Tiffany began training with Monica at Exclusively Ballet in 1992 and found her dance home! The next year she began teaching Preschool classes and was the first “Cinderella” in May of 1994. Throughout the years, Tiffany has continued teaching Ballet, Tap and Jazz classes in the Birmingham area. She owned “Tiffany’s Dance Co.” in the Oak Mountain area for 12 years and choreographed for the Oak Mountain High School show choirs for 5 years. Recently, she has returned to school to complete her nursing degree and is so excited to be returning to Exclusively Ballet as an instructor! Tiffany is married to Nathan and has two daughters: Taylor and Eva.