Meet Complexions Contemporary Ballet’s Christian Burse

October 16, 2023

At 19 years old, Complexions Contemporary Ballet’s Christian Burse commands the stage with expansive and exacting movement beyond her years. In Dwight Rhoden’s recent Endgame, she uses her classical sensibility to morph into contemporary shapes, her gaze projecting into the audience with cool intensity. Her stability in moments of stillness is as much of a standout as her quick feet and soaring leaps.

Company: Complexions Contemporary Ballet

Age: 19

Hometown: Austin, Texas

Training: Joyce Willett School of Dance, Rise Dance Company, Dance Industry Performing Arts Center, Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts

Accolades: 2022 Clive Barnes Awards dance finalist

Charting a course: Burse was introduced to Complexions at 12 years old while taking class from Mia Michaels at JUMP Dance Convention.­ “She called me out and asked if I knew who Desmond­ Richardson was,” Burse says, referencing Complexions’ co-founder and artistic director. “She said the way I danced reminded her of him, and that I should Google him.” After researching the company, she auditioned for Complexions’ intensive and attended six summers in a row.

A teenage prodigy: At just 17, Burse joined Complexions as an apprentice. “All of those years attending their summer program acted as an audition for me. They had seen me grow,” she says. Not only did Burse move to New York City away from her family, but she finished her senior year of high school virtually while on tour. During the summer of 2022, she was offered a full company contract.

Digging deep: For Burse, the Complexions repertoire requires vulnerability. “I’m working on going to a deep, connective place when I dance so that I can have an impact on the audience,” she says. Rhoden’s WOKE has helped her hone this particular skill. “WOKE is one of the most challenging pieces I have ever done—physically, mentally, and emotionally. It’s about what is happening in the world with Black Lives Matter and the Me Too movement.”

What her director is saying: “Christian­ is an extraordinary young artist,” says Rhoden, who leads Complexions with Richardson. “She has the uncanny ability to morph into any style of movement. In many ways, she reminds me of a young Desmond with her passion, intelligence, work ethic, natural instincts, masterful ability, and poetry in her movement. She bursts onto the stage with an unforced charisma and never fails to move audiences.”

After hours: Once rehearsals wrap, Burse finishes most days with class at Broadway Dance Center or Steps on Broadway. “I want to expand my versatility,” she says. Some of her favorite teachers are Marguerite Derricks, Teddy Forance, Martha Nichols, and Ebony Williams.

Her dreams for the future: Though she’s dazzling in contemporary ballet, Burse aspires to perform in a variety of styles over the course of her career. “At some point I want to do commercial dance, I want to dance on tour with an artist like Beyoncé, I want to do musical theater,” she says. “I’m open to anything and everything. This is just the beginning.”