March 15, 2023
Volume 4 Issue 2
By: Carson Mason
When Aryanna Allen was in third grade, her mother shared a statement with Allen’s dance instructor that remains true to this day.
“Ary already told me she wants to be just like you when she grows up.”
Allen was mortified at the time, but she has since lived up to her mother’s statement. Now a full-time freelance dancer and instructor in Atlanta, she is rehearsing for upcoming performances with Dance Canvas, Rogue Wave Dance and Beacon Dance.
Allen’s path to a professional dance career was not always easy. At one point, she even questioned if it was a fit for her.
At age three, Allen began competitive dance at Miss Donna’s School of Dancing in Charlotte, North Carolina. She trained and competed in several styles of dance, including jazz, tap, lyrical, hip-hop, contemporary and ballet. Allen became serious about dance toward the end of elementary school and asked her mom if she could enroll in a performing arts middle school.
Allen auditioned and was accepted into Northwest School of the Arts in Charlotte, North Carolina, where she began training in classical modern techniques. She furthered her training as a dance major at Central Academy of Technology and Arts High School in Monroe, North Carolina, while she continued competitive dancing at Miss Donna’s School of Dancing.
While Allen was training several hours every day, she was still uncertain of her next step as her grade-school enthusiasm for dance waned during her teenage years.
“Toward the end of high school, I started to get burnt out with competition dance,” Allen says. “My high school modern teacher recommended I go to a modern-based program and try a [Bachelor of Arts], so it wasn’t as intense.”
Working with her teacher, Allen decided on Emory University in Atlanta, where she planned to double major in dance and business in case she decided not to pursue dancing as a full-time career.
Her intention quickly changed once she arrived on campus.
“In one of my first weeks on campus, there was a staibdance show,” Allen says. “I remember seeing that, taking the modern dance classes at Emory, meeting people in the community and just starting to immerse myself in it here. By the end of that first semester, I was like, ‘Yes, I’m a dance major. I’m going to make this work.’ I would say my passion for dance was definitely reignited when I got to Emory.”
A two-time Emory Friends of Dance Scholarship recipient, Allen was a member of the Emory Dance Company every semester she studied there. She credits professors George Staib and Gregory Catellier as mentors who pushed her to dance professionally.
“What she really gained was confidence,” Catellier says. “I don’t know why she lacked confidence in the first place, but sometimes students just need space and time to grow and become grounded. I’m seeing that confidence grow in her even now.”
Catellier, who instructed Allen in several courses including upper level modern technique, contact improvisation and solo composition, described her movement as having intrinsic musicality.
“She’s sensitive to music’s subtleties and amplifies them through her movement,” Catellier says. “Aryanna moves with precise abandon. She takes up the whole studio as she dances, but it’s about fulfilling the movement, not demanding attention. She can be liquid and mercurial or driven by line and efficiency.”
Now a company member with Monica Hogan Danceworks, Allen is immersed in the Atlanta dance scene. She has performed in several local artists’ works including Leo Briggs, Patsy Collins and Jessica Bertram, among others.
Allen has several upcoming projects in the mix, including Jacque Pritz’s piece for Dance Canvas, Catherine Messina’s piece for the Atlanta Science Festival, Carly Wynans’ piece for the Beacon Dance Spring Repertoire and more. Allen typically attends six to eight rehearsals per week and at least three classes per week. She also teaches at Druid Hills Dance Center, Dance Foundry and Lyrric Jackson Dance Company in the evenings.
“I feel super fortunate,” Allen says. “Every day is a dream come true that I get to go to classes and rehearsals with my friends and make art.”
Allen, who has lived in Atlanta for six years, says that the dance community has helped raise her and feels like home.
“The community is really blossoming,” Allen says. “Since I went to Emory, there were so many community members I looked up to in my undergrad experience. Now, I’m out in the community dancing with them and dancing for them as my peers.”
In terms of what’s next for Allen, she hopes to tour with a professional dance company someday. She also has a long-term dream of opening her own performance studio space, similar to The Windmill Arts Center or The Movement Lab.
“I just love community, and I love gathering,” Allen says. “I would love to have my own space that was a hub for freelance dancers. That would be really cool.”
To keep up with Allen, follow her on Instagram. Her upcoming performances include “Gap Junction” by Rogue Wave, presented by the Atlanta Science Festival, on March 17 at The Paideia School and “SueSabel” by Jacque Pritz for Dance Canvas March 24-25 at the Ferst Center.
Carson Mason is an Atlanta-based dancer who grew up dancing competitively in Greensboro, NC before studying contemporary dance at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Carson has lived in Atlanta for three years and works full-time as a brand social media manager. She is also a substitute dance instructor at Peachtree Dance in Buckhead. A lover of writing and communications, Carson has bylines in several editorial publications including MLB.com, NBA.com, The State Newspaper, The Charlotte Observer, The Lansing State Journal, The Macon Telegraph and more. Carson is thrilled to be more involved in supporting dance in Atlanta as a volunteer on the DanceATL writing committee.
Read more from Carson:
Atlanta dancer Umi Iman explores liberation and healing through movement