Celebrity choreographer Anthony Burrell on investing in his own legacy with ‘Anthony Burrell Center for Dance’

GRIO EXCLUSIVE: Anthony Burrell explains he was he was put on this earth to dance and give back to the next generation

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Growing up in Philidelphia as a young Black boy who enjoyed contemporary dance styles such as ballet, jazz, and modern wasn’t easy for Anthony Burrell. At times, he was bullied on his way to dance classes but Burrell didn’t let those experiences get the best of him. Instead, he used it as motivation.

Burrell’s dedication, determination, and discipline while pursuing his passion granted him the opportunities to dance with companies such as Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and also creative directing, choreographing, and dancing with legends in the industry such as Beyoncé, Mariah Carey, and Brandy.

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After Carey’s 2017 New Year’s Eve performance made international news due to technical difficulties, Burrell realized it was time to go live his dreams.

“To have that all thrown back on my lap as if It was my fault, It was like, whoa,” Burrell, 40, shares during an IG LIVE with theGrio. “So I decided to take the time to invest in Anthony’s career and Anthony’s legacy versus helping these super-rich people attain their dreams and their goals and billions of dollars. I wanted to start to create what that was for me.”

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In October 2018,  Burrell invested in himself and opened Anthony Burrell Center for Dance – “a multifaceted dance institution positioned to become Atlanta’s premier dance studio for pre-professional dancers and elite rehearsal space of touring artists and dancer.”

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Like many industries, the dance world was deeply impacted by COVID-19 and Burrell had to close the studio earlier in the year. But in September, ABCD re-opened in Decatur, Georgia.

In the two years that ABCD center opened, Burrell inspired many young dancers and even sent kids off to college as dance majors. Seeing the impact he’s made in their lives is the reason why he’s investing in the new studio.

“It’s unexplainable and it’s something that shows me that this is my true lane,” says Burrell. “This is why I was put on this earth, to dance, and to give back to the next generation.”

When it comes to classical styles of dancing, there is still a lack of representation when it comes to Black dancers. We are still seeing many “firsts.”

It only took 75 years for the American Ballet Theater to elect the first African-American Female Principal Dancer, Misty Copeland, in 2015.

When asked why there’s a lack of representation, Burrell says because of oppression.

“They want to keep these standards and what ballet looks like,” states Burrell. “They want to keep these standards and what they think America looks like and America has changed. We come in so many different colors, so many different shapes, sizes.”

“I’m all about being Black, intersectionality, and working together and infusing our ideas that have been stolen over the years over and over and over again. Now you can see where it’s really coming from,” says Burrell.

He continues, “Even in ballet, it’s like we are just great artists,” Burrell continues. “When we’re good, we’re good. We just have something that’s in us that exudes greatness. Maybe it’s our trials or maybe it’s from our bloodline. We just have that will to be great.”

Check out the full interview above !

To learn more about ABCD and to find out how to support, check out: https://www.abdanceco.org/home/

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