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Remembering Virginia Barnett

Distinguished and captivating dancer, dedicated teacher, and devoted friend, Ginger Barnett has left this life and danced into the next.


Maniya Barredo and all at Metropolitan Ballet Theatre are proud to have known such a warm and generous soul. Our prayers and condolences are with her husband, Robert, and the family and friends who miss her dearly.

- from the Asheville Citizen-Times, 10 July, 2016

Asheville - Virginia Rich Barnett, born Virginia Rich in Atlanta, GA, on April 16, 1934, lost her battle with terminal cancer, at 4:17 p.m. on July 9, 2016.

She was the younger daughter of Virginia Lazarus Rich and Richard H. Rich of the Rich's Department Store chain, established in Atlanta, in 1867. She is survived by her husband, Robert J. Barnett; her two sons, Robert J. Barnett, Jr. (wife Elizabeth Murphy Barnett and their two sons Ryan and Austin), David Michael Barnett (wife Jackie Mata Barnett and son Aaron); and her sister, Sally E. Darling (husband Richard). Virginia was predeceased by her brother, Michael Peter Rich, in 1991. She is also survived by many nieces, nephews, cousins and colleagues in the Art of Dance, all very dear to her heart.

Virginia Barnett was a major force in Georgia's arts community for many years and played an instrumental role in the establishment of dance in the Southeast. Her career encompassed both ballet and modern dance. Ms Barnett shared her passion for artistic excellence in the capacities of teacher, arts advocate, administrator and above all, performing artist.

Ms. Barnett's dance training began at the age of three. She received her training with Dorothy Alexander in Atlanta at the Atlanta School of Ballet, in London, England at the Royal Ballet School and in New York City at the School of American Ballet, as well as the school affiliated with the American Ballet Theater.

She danced with the Atlanta Civic Ballet (later to be named the Atlanta Ballet), at the Radio City Music Hall and in an NBC television series under the direction of Choreographer John Butler. In 1955, Ms. Barnett's childhood dream was realized when she joined the New York City Ballet, working under the direction of George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins. She performed with the New York City Ballet and toured nationally and internationally for almost four years. She then returned to her native Atlanta to serve as Associate Director and Principal Dancer with the Atlanta Ballet.

In 1969, Ms. Barnett left the Atlanta Ballet to form (along with Carl Ratcliff and Teena Stern) the Southeast's first Modern Dance Company, the Carl Ratcliff Dance Theater, for which she remained Associate Director and Principal Dancer until 1994. Her dedication to teaching continued at the Atlanta School of Ballet throughout her career.

Ms. Barnett served on the Dance Panel for the Georgia Council for the Arts, Fulton County Arts Council and Atlanta's Bureau of Cultural Affairs. In 1975, the American Association of University Women presented her with an Outstanding Leadership Award and in 1984, she received the Georgia Governor's Award in the Arts honoring her life-long contributions to the art of dance. 

Ms. Barnett and her husband Robert (Artistic Director Emeritus of the Atlanta Ballet) retired to Asheville, NC, in 1996. After her retirement from her life with the Art of Dance, both Modern and Classical, her pride and joy were her three grandsons, Aaron, 17, Ryan, 12, and Austin, 8, as well as the time she spent daily in her extensive gardens, inside and outside of her home, with her beloved plants and flowers.

Virginia Barnett with husband, Robert, and George Balanchine

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