Artist Spotlight: Chloe Burton
Chloe Burton is a rare dancer in that she didn’t start taking the art form seriously until college. Most take their first ballet classes before they’re even 10 years old, yet when she knew it’s what she wanted to do, she didn’t let her late start stand in her way.
Now, Burton teaches at Coredination in Carbondale and dances with CoMotion, Dance Initiative’s contemporary company. She spoke with the Post Independent about how she was introduced to dance and how she became involved in the valley’s dance scene.
Post Independent: How did you get into dance?
Chloe Burton: My first memory of dance was watching my mom do lyrical dance in a long white dress. As kids I think a lot of us go through the idolization stage with parents, wanting to be just like them. Then at some point we find that parents seem less cool, and we start to reject their suggestions and find out for ourselves what we really like. I was just on the cusp of this transition, I think, when my mom splurged-bought me my first pair of pink leather ballet slippers. I was 7 and not that excited, but I was willing to try out the lyrical dance camp my mom was sending me to. My favorite part of the dance camp was the slip-n-slide we got to play on at the end of the week.
I think I sort of rejected dance, early on, out of embarrassment because all I had was unstructured free play with scarves and imaginary rivers to leap over. As strange as it sounds, I think if I had been put in a structured ballet class with pink tights, black leo, hair in bun uniform and serious technique instruction, I might have had more interest with it as a kid.
PI: When did you decide you were going to start taking dance seriously?
CB: I took a dance class here and there growing up, but I really mark the beginning of my dance career at Colorado Mesa University. My friend was a Music Theater major, and I was undecided. She had all these fun classes she was taking, like acting and dance, while I was stuck in general ed classes like math. I decided to try a ballet class with her and fell in love. Pretty soon I was taking mostly dance classes and despite the lack of logic or reason, and despite the fact that I was a beginning dancer, I followed my heart and declared a dance major.
There was one moment in my sophomore year where we had to sit down with the heads of the dance department and have a talk. I was terrified they were about to tell me that I didn’t cut it, that I was too old to start now, that I looked like a fool in all of my classes, but instead they both told me, exact quote here, that I “could do this.” I wasn’t making a mistake. That’s probably the moment I began to take myself seriously as an artist. I enrolled in every advanced class and floundered around in the back until I found (ugh, pun) my feet. I devoured books on dance, and YouTube videos. I practiced tendus in my door room late at night and hardly ever missed a class.
I was way behind. Most dancers start before they are 10 (which I had the chance to do). Professional ballerinas are rounding the corner to the end of their careers by the time they hit 25. I remember complaining to my advisor that I wish I had listened to my mother and gone to dance classes as a kid. He said that perhaps it was better this way, better that I started so late. I could have burnt out. I could have lost interest by the time I got to college. I think there was wisdom to what he said.
PI: Tell me about some of the dance training you’ve had.
CB: I studied jazz, tap, hip-hop, choreography, pedagogy, improvisation and music theater, but mostly I really loved ballet and modern dance. The best days were ones I got to take the very structured ballet class and then go right into artistry-heavy modern. The two dance forms balance each other perfectly, and when you put the techniques together you get contemporary ballet, which, in my opinion, is the most interesting dance form to watch.
I was lucky enough to go to a university were performance was a huge emphasis, because performing is really were you get to know yourself as a dancer, how you react to pressure and being in the spotlight. How you remember the choreography and then forget it enough to be able to really live in the moment and dance truthfully and fully. I was able to perform in dance concerts two to four times a year choreographed by guest artists, faculty and students, as well as a musical and a ballet with a live orchestra.
PI: When and why did you move out to the valley? How did you get involved in the dance scene out here?
CB: I’ve lived in the Roaring Fork Valley most of my life (Aspen, Basalt, Emma, Glenwood Springs and Carbondale). I was a little worried about what I was going to do with myself after college. I wasn’t ready to jump on a bus a live in L.A. or New York, which is where most of my theater friends now live. I moved back to the Roaring Fork Valley. The fall after I graduated, I performed in Aspen Community Theater’s “Crazy for You” as a showgirl (for the second time that year) and came back the next season for “The Producers.”
Dance Initiative’s Spectrum Dance Festival is what really brought me into the dance scene in Carbondale. I had been missing dance outside of music theater. I took a modern class with Patrick Mueller called “Flying Low” and felt my homesickness for dance lift. Deb Colley’s modern and contemporary classes, Dance LAB, are what kept me in the studio and feeling like I was moving forward with my art. I performed in two of CCAH’s fashion shows with Deb as a dancer (one year I was a cat with an umbrella) which was quite wild and fun. Last summer we did this show that was all improvisation inside an art installation at SAW in Carbondale. This past spring I had the honor of being a part of Dance Initiative’s first artist residency with Patrick Mueller, where we collaborated long hours on “Damages.”
Another studio that I’ve been happy to be a part of is Coredination/Bonedale Ballet. I got hooked on Anthony and Alexandra’s studio with a tap class and a modern class taught by Megan (who also performed in “Damages”). Coredination just hired me for their fall season to teach a jazz dance class, which I am stoked about.
PI: In general, what are your thoughts on the dance scene in the valley?
CB: I’ve said this before, but dance is a perishable art form, yet it’s alive and growing in this valley.
PI: What do you like about performing?
CB: I perform to create. I perform to share. I perform for the validation. I perform because it’s tradition. I perform because there are some dance pieces I’ve seen that have made me cry or laugh or wonder, and I want to do that for someone else.
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