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Howard University Dancers “Take Flight” with Complexions Contemporary Ballet in Dance Concert on April 12 and 13

Award-winning creative director and choreographer Anthony Burrell shares vision for “The Woman King” inspired number

Anthony Burrell rehearses with Howard University dance students

WASHINGTON – Dancers from the Howard University Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts will take the Ira Aldridge Theater stage for a two-night dance concert titled “Take Flight” featuring Complexions Contemporary Ballet. The concert will open on Friday, April 12, with a show at 7:30 p.m. and continue with two shows at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 13. Tickets are on sale now

“Our annual dance concert showcases the incredible talent and dedication of our students who have worked tirelessly, striving to create performances that will entertain and inspire,” said Denise Saunders Thompson, assistant dean of the College of Fine Arts. “This year our students had the chance to work with some of the most talented, accomplished, and visionary choreographers and through that exposure and mentorship, they have created a show we believe will be a transformative experience for our students and everyone who gets to participate.” 

This is the second year that the Howard University Dance Program has collaborated with Complexions Contemporary Ballet, a partnership with Complexions co-founders Desmond Richardson and Dwight Rhoden who have served in residency at the Chadwick A. Boseman College of Fine Arts since 2022. This year’s concert will feature the diverse work of faculty choreographers Richardson, Rhoden, and Assane Konte, alongside guest choreographers Christopher Huggins, Nycole Ray, and Anthony Burrell

Burrell, an award-winning creative director, choreographer, and actor, currently serves as associate professor of dance at Boston Conservatory at Berklee. The renowned dancer was a member of the artistic team behind several recent performances by Beyoncé, including the artist’s Super Bowl 50 Halftime Show, her 2016 MTV Music Awards and Country Music Awards performances, and The Formation World Tour. He has choreographed for and danced with an incredible roster of artists including Mariah Carey, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Rihanna, and Mary J. Blige. 

“I was inspired by “The Woman King” and I wanted to bring that as my lead inspiration,” Burrell shared in an interview during a dance rehearsal for the upcoming concert. He noted that the Black woman’s struggle was a key source of inspiration, specifically mentioning the challenges to women’s reproductive rights, and pointed to the concept of women rising as warriors. “I wanted to show the vulnerability, the passion, the strength, the sensuality, the power of women, and I wanted this performance to encapsulate what that is.” 

Burrell’s choreography blends the styles and techniques he’s been exposed to through his mentors and experiences, resulting in a mix of classical styles with styles emerging from the African diaspora. “I just love being close to the African diasporic way of movement and its always immersed within my technique.” 

In reflecting on the idea of the power of women, Burrell credited Saunders Thompson as being one of five Black women in his life who have served as a pillar in his own career. Burrell was invited to set choreography for the "Take Flight” dance concert by Saunders Thompson, who wrote a letter of recommendation for him when he was applying for a Master of Fine Arts at Hollins University and has stayed close since. “I’m grateful to be around this legacy and the future of this organization,” Burrell said. 

“That’s why I love Black women. They are the pillar of the world. In this performance, we have these different complexions, different heights, different hair textures, different skin tones, and it's challenging me to think differently.” 

Through his work with the students, Burrell says the dancers get to experience a level of rigor that they’ve never experienced before. “Working with Beyoncé, you just have a level of excellence, and I can’t go back. So, I try and bring everyone to that level of understanding how we can push ourselves from our last opportunity to be better and smarter and work to create connection and community.” 

Students, faculty, staff, and the general public can purchase tickets for the “Take Flight” dance concert here