Meet Mentor Raven Barkley & Mentee Nya Cunningham

Mentor: Raven Barkley, Company Dancer with Charlotte Ballet

raven barkley

Photo Credit:  Humberto Ramazzina

Mentee: Nya Cunningham, Student at Baltimore School for the Arts

nya cunningham ballet

 Photo Credit: Laura Quintero

How did you communicate with each other?

Raven: Unfortunately, I was unable to meet up with my mentee in-person. I wish that I could’ve met with Nya in a more personal setting; however, thanks to technology, I was able to FaceTime with her. Our form of communication for our 1-on-1 meetings was through FaceTime and phone calls. There were times we had conversation through text message, but we preferred being able to verbally communicate.

Nya: Sadly, I wasn’t able to physically meet my mentor, although I was able to Facetime/video chat with my mentor.


What were some aspects you were able to learn from one another?

Raven: I learned so much from Nya! She taught me how to practice what I preach. She also helped me not lose hope when things get hard, especially when you experience an injury. It was nice to figure out how to explain some of the things I learned from my journey because sometimes as a professional dancer we know what we should do and what works for us personally, but to find the ability to say it out loud to another human being is different. It forced me to find ways to convey advice based on Nya’s personal journey. It was such a pleasure chatting with Nya because she has so much promise in this career. I was mesmerized by Nya’s versatility in a copious amount of dance styles.

Nya: Raven helped me with ways of public speaking, helped me with ways of approaching my teachers when I had problems, and she also helped me during my summer program being a minority.


raven barkley ballet


What topics were you able to share and discuss together?

Raven: Nya and I had enlightening conversations. She was able to express her difficulties dealing with injury recovery and how to deal with pressure from her dance peers. We also talked about the process of breaking in pointe shoes, and I gave her advice about summer intensives.

Nya: My mentor and I talked about injuries and my ballet technique.


nya cunningham ballet

 Photo Credit: Laura Quintero

As a mentor, how did this program help you connect with a younger generation of dancers? 

Raven: I thoroughly enjoyed being able to connect to a younger generation because I was able to hear first-hand the difficulties that my mentee faced. It was nice to be able to bond with Nya and see her blossom. I follow Nya on Instagram and was constantly in awe of her passion and determination for the art form. I enjoyed cheering her on for all of endeavors, including, but not limited to: her summer intensives and first day of high school. Additionally, it was nice to be reminded that there’s always someone younger than you that is watching your journey. It was comforting to know that Nya and I are on the same journey but at different times.

As a mentee, how did the mentorship program enhance your life as a dancer? Best piece of advice or inspiration you received from your mentor?

Nya: It helped me become more confident as a dancer because I have begun to always perform at my full potential in every class, video, and performance.  The best piece of advice I received from my mentor was to always accept myself for who I am as a dancer and a person, because if I can’t accept myself, then who will?

As participants in the PointePeople mentorship program, the dancers were also able to test various colors and shades of Pointe Paint.

What features did you like about Pointe Paint?

Raven: I absolutely LOVE the efficiency of Pointe Paint. I was able to color my pointe shoes quickly. It was also nice to have paint that meshed really well with skin tone. I also appreciated the ease of the clean-up process.

Nya: I like that there is an applicator connected with the bottle.

Benefits of Pointe Paint versus conventional pointe shoe dye? 

Raven: The Pointe Paint does not harden your shoes or change the texture and feeling of the shoe. I broke in my shoes and shaped them the way I liked, applied Pointe Paint the following day, and didn’t have to worry about my shoes deforming.

Did you use Pointe Paint for a specific role or just experiment with it?

Raven: I used my Pointe Paint for mostly coloring my shoes to match my skin tone because I enjoy wearing shoes that continue the line of my leg.

I also experimented with the Orchid Pointe Paint on some dead pointe shoes because my favorite color is purple... so why not live my best life in purple pointe shoes whenever my heart desires?

Nya: Just for an experiment.

Favorite shade or color of Pointe Paint? Which color would you love to try next?

Raven: My favorite shade of Pointe Paint is the Agave, which matches my skin tone, and the Orchid because it’s my favorite shade of purple. I would also like to try the black Pointe Paint because there have been times when I needed black shoes for photo shoots, so it would be nice to have some black Pointe Paint at my disposal. I’m also not opposed to trying some lighter skin tone shades during the winter, being that my skin tone lightens during the winter months.

Nya: I like Darjeeling Pointe Paint, but I would also try Agave and Garam Masala.

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