June 22, 2022
Volume 3 Issue 3
By: Alex Franco
“Atlanta is a land of opportunity for dance,” says Atlanta-based performer and educator Erin Burch. “It’s one of the few places where no matter how you look, there’s a spot for you.” Burch describes Atlanta as “a web of connectivity,” where everyone knows everyone, which allows for greater networking and a multitude of opportunities. In her own words, “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.”
Burch started dancing at a young age. She first got the opportunity at church, which sparked her passion for movement. She was able to further kindle that passion at the age of 16 when she joined her high school’s hip-hop company. From there, she expanded to jazz and modern dance. It was at this time that the idea solidified in her mind — she wanted to be a dancer.
With the help of her dance instructor at school, Burch was able to secure a scholarship to dance at a local studio. This would launch her into her professional life as a dancer, and she would eventually be offered a job teaching at the same studio where she was first a student.
Since then, Burch has performed with a number of companies: Advocate Arts Contemporary Dance Company, Admix Project and City Gate, as well as Komansé Dance Theater, where she still performs. Before the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, Burch found herself in New York. She had traveled up to audition for a summer intensive with Garth Fagen, the choreographer behind Broadway’s The Lion King.
“I didn’t match their aesthetic — their physical aesthetic — which for me became a turning point,” says Burch. She put the question to herself: What was she more interested in — commercial or concert dance?
“I went with concert dance. I knew I just had to go for it, and that someone would give me the ‘yes’ I was looking for.” The “yes” finally came from Dayton Contemporary Dance Company in Ohio, which Burch planned to join in fall 2020. However, surgery and the unfolding pandemic would put these plans on hold.
“Surgery changed my relationship with my body,” Burch says. “I used to move intuitively, trusting my body to be able to go in whatever direction, trusting it to be able to fall gracefully, but now I’m rebuilding that trust because my body moves differently.” Just as Burch had to rediscover her relationship to her body and movement, the world of dance had to rediscover its place in society in the face of a global pandemic.
“The arts are so important, especially during times of crisis,” says Burch. “[They’re] our lifeblood. We embody the human experience visually in a way that people can connect to. It’s a temporary reprieve from life for audiences, and it’s an outlet for expression for the artist.”
Burch has felt the weight and impact of the pandemic on a personal level. “At first it was a little scary, because it meant I could no longer perform or teach,” she says. “I had to get very comfortable being in front of the camera very quickly, since I was teaching virtually.” However, quarantine also provided time for more self reflection.
“It gave me an opportunity to slow down and prioritize my physical and mental health more,” says Burch. “I was doing a lot — full-time student, dancing in two companies, teaching. It was go, go, go. But COVID gave me a chance to reprioritize. It made me make changes I otherwise wouldn’t have made.”
Neither surgery nor the pandemic have quelled Burch’s passion for dance and for teaching. “I’m passionate about dance education,” she says. “I want to build up the future generation of dancers and reach as many students as I can. I want to use what I’ve gained as an artist and give it back to my students. When they say they want to be as good as me one day, I tell them that they’re going to be better than me. That’s what I want.”
Currently, Burch is working on a number of projects that she is excited about. “I’m curating a show that will showcase different choreographers, which is a new experience for me since I’ve never curated a show before, but I’m excited.” She just wrapped a performance in this year’s Modern Atlanta Dance (MAD) Festival and is looking ahead to a number of performances with Komansé Dance Theater.
“Each performance is a checkpoint for myself on my road to recovery,” she says. And as the world continues to adapt and change with the evolving nature of the pandemic, each performance, each opening night, each curtain rise is also a checkpoint for the world of dance and arts on its own long and winding road to recovery.
Alex Robert Franco is a writer from Atlanta, GA. He studied literature at Bard College and the Sorbonne, and his work has appeared in over a dozen different publications. He believes art is life. More of his writing can be found at www.alexrobertfranco.com.