Dorrance Dance's Elizabeth Burke on Pre-Show Rituals and Celeb Doppelgängers

Photo by Matthew Murphy, courtesy Dorrance Dance

Dorrance Dance's Elizabeth Burke's dynamic technique and intricate musicality have made her a tap-scene standout. A Chapel Hill, NC, native, she trained with the North Carolina Youth Tap Ensemble, led by her mentor, Gene Medler. She's an alumna of The School at Jacob's Pillow and graduated from Marymount Manhattan College with bachelor's degrees in political science and communication arts. Burke appeared on a Dance Spirit cover in 2010, and has danced with Dorrance Dance since its formation in 2011. Catch her performing at the company's New York City Center run tonight through Saturday, and read on for The Dirt!


Do you have any pre-performance habits?

I like to get my hair/makeup done on the earlier side (not at the last minute).

Ideally, I incorporate a handful of things into my pre-show warm-up:

—tap dancing! (improvising, rudiments)

—physical therapy/Pilates-based strengthening and stabilization (I've had some injuries!)

—roll using a ball/foam roller/stick as needed

—If I've activated my core, hips, legs, and broken a sweat, I feel better!

Who are you most proud of?

My mama and my niece

What's your best advice for young dancers?

—treat everyone with kindness and respect

—respect your elders

—keep yourself open to learning and exploring your entire life

Have you had any embarrassing moments onstage?

Plenty of them! Fairly recently (January 2018), Byron Tittle and I collided midair in an Association of Performing Arts Professionals showcase. I sprained my left wrist and was in a brace on tour. Let it be known that it was my fault, not Byron's! I love you, Byron Tittle.

Who would play you in a movie?

People tell me I look like Elizabeth Olsen? But that's a purely aesthetic choice based on physical appearance…

Do you have any nicknames?

Many! E, e burke, lady burke, lady burkowitz, e burkowitz, e girl, burkey, churp, churl, churple, churps, churper, agent oo flappy, burke, marion cotillard, burkowit…

What's one food you can't live without?

An iced chai tea latte with either almond, oat, soy, or nondairy milk (skim in a pinch), with light ice…in the biggest size they've got. Ventiiiiii

Who can always make you laugh?

Gene Medler, the founder and artistic director of North Carolina Youth Tap Ensemble!

Who's your dance role model?

Gene Medler. "Dance to express, not to impress." Gene is hands down one of the greatest humans and dancers I'll ever know.

What's your go-to stress reliever?

MUSIC. Also a big believer in the restorative power of sleep!

Where do you feel happiest?

Surrounded by people I love most, sharing and making music/art/dance.

What performer would you drop everything to see?

Definitely Frank Ocean

What's your dream gig?

Making dope music with people I love most

What are your pet peeves?

—My time being taken advantage of

—rudeness

—white supremacy

—patriarchy

(the last two are much larger than pet peeves)

Dance-wise do you have any bad habits?

I think I forget to breathe sometimes, and I don't engage my glutes enough.

If you could work with any choreographer, who would it be?

Too many to name! But some include:

(Past)
—Tip Tap & Toe
—The Whitman Sisters
—Jeni LeGon
—Cora La Redd
Jimmy Slyde
—The Condos Brothers


(Present)
—Soraya Lundy
—Olivia Cipolla
Ebony Williams
Camille A. Brown
Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards

What would you be if you weren't a dancer?

Hopefully a musician! #allisonmiller

What did you want to be when you were a kid?

A few things, before I fell in love with tap dance:

—a meteorologist

—a tennis player

…actually, that might have been it. Then I fell in love with tap dance.

What non-dance thing would you consider yourself an expert at?

Probably Drake's musical catalog and chai tea lattes.

Do you have any guilty pleasures?

Too many to count. #taurusgang

Who's your dance crush?

I'll never tell! 🙂

What's your favorite book?

Well, a favorite is hard to name, but right now I'm reading Blood Done Sign My Name and loving it. I would encourage everyone to read it. Timothy B. Tyson is the author.


A version of this story appeared in the March 2019 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "The Dirt with Elizabeth Burke."

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