Atlanta is constantly discussing the growth of its arts scene and how the arts can be integrated into the evolution of this city. Many new programs have been introduced to incorporate visual artists, however, not enough has been done to address the performing arts.
Fortunately, renowned dancer and choreographer Anthony Burrell has stepped onto the scene to create a spark in Atlanta’s dance community. Burrell’s new facility, the Anthony Burrell Center for Dance (ABCD), now sits off of Moreland Avenue in East Atlanta and is open for business.
With an already impressive resume that boasts a number of big names, including Beyonce, Mariah Carey, Rihanna, Katy Perry, and Jussie Smollett, Burrell is now venturing into unknown territory. He’s now focused on adding the titles teacher, entrepreneur, studio owner, and community leader to his list of achievements.
“I built the Anthony Burrell Center for Dance basically for statistics and people like myself, who grew up in the inner city and wanted outlets,” Burrell said. “This is a safe haven for dancers and people all over with different backgrounds to come in and fellowship in the name of dance.
“This school is going to be the next hot thing, like what Alvin Ailey and Debbie Allen have become,” Burrell said.
Already, elite dance professionals Frank Gatson and Chris Grant have already begun to frequent ABCD, bringing their celebrity clients to rehearse. Burrell and his team of instructors have also provided a number of masterclasses.
Burrell’s Center provides instruction for students as young as two years old and can accommodate students of any age and body type.
With daily classes and a full menu of dance offerings, the schedule is so diverse that untrained or new dancers can come in and take part in open classes that deliver the instruction and discipline that they need.
“We have all idioms,” Burrell explained. “We’re curriculum-based from ballet, modern, jazz, hip-hop, tap, West African, Afro vibe, heels, pilates, yoga, Zumba, and many more.
While Burrell is still building the center out, there are currently two main studios where dancers gather, one of which is usually reserved for high-profile dancers. However, he is also in the process of adding additional spaces to the center.
Burrell said he also plans on using ABCD as the launching pad to extend his profile into advocacy, concentrating on community issues like ending homelessness and providing support to teens from single-parent households.
Though Burrell has decided to make Atlanta his base of operations, he is originally a Philadelphia native. He started dancing as a teenager after being adopted. Burrell describes the beginnings of his dance career and how he got his start in the entertainment industry.
“I got my start when I was 19,” he said. “I joined the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre right out of high school and I stayed for four years.
“While I was there at Alvin Ailey one of my mentors, Desmond Richardson, who was a famed modern dancer called the Ailey school and said, ‘Oh, Beyonce’s then-choreographer (Frank Gatson) is looking for a dancer who’s six feet.’
“All the guys there were under six feet…I was one of the only one there that was six foot,” He continued. “I went over to Radio City Music Hall and met (Gatson). My life and career took off from there.”
As Burrell’s star continued to rise, he not only was able to dance with big names but also to choreograph commercials for brands like Pepsi and DKNY. He’s acted on Broadway, been featured on major television programs and has even danced for former US President Barack Obama.
Burrell said that he’s now entering a new chapter in his life that gives him more control and a lot of happiness.
“As a kid, I dreamed about opening this school and providing the same opportunity that my guardians (who adopted me at 14) gave me as a kid in the hood with no outlet,” said Burrell.
However, the transition from entertainer to entrepreneur hasn’t been as smooth as Burrell would have hoped, he admitted.
“One of the pitfalls that I’ve experienced is just the business aspect,” Burrell said. “I’m totally an artist, so the business side of this process has really gotten to me.
“It almost defeated me and deterred me from wanted to continue because it’s so much more than ballet bars and mirrors on the wall,” he added. “It’s licensing, cameras, bills, and HVAC systems. Everything single thing cost, down to the paperclip.”
His dance career has given him so many blessings and he would like to give other people better opportunities than he had growing up.
The Anthony Burrell Center for Dance is currently open and taking students every day. Find out more by visiting https://www.abdanceco.org or go to 765 Moreland Ave SE to sign up for classes.