By Madeline Kurtz
The Department of Dance proudly boasts an impressive roster of faculty, all of whom are leaders in the contemporary dance field. This semester, three new faculty members have joined the mix, including Julia Burrer, whose extensive career includes eight years with renowned company, Doug Varone and Dancers. She brings an exciting perspective to the Department through her performance, pedagogy, and choreography.
A native of Austin, TX, Burrer moved to New York following high school to pursue her collegiate dance training at SUNY Purchase. During her undergraduate studies, she had multiple profound experiences, including her time studying abroad in Rotterdam, alongside her on-campus training. Standing tall at 6’1.5’’, Burrer learned how to use her height to her advantage under Professor Stephanie Tooman’s guidance in her Graham technique class. A second important mentor, Megan Williams, formerly of the Mark Morris dance company, ultimately changed Burrer’s life by introducing her to the work of choreographer Doug Varone. She was especially drawn to the movement vocabulary, as well as the familial vibe of the company. As a result of her interest in Varone’s work, Burrer attended summer workshops with the company and forged important relationships. Previously, she hadn’t pinpointed a choreographer with whom she felt an extreme connection as a mover. After three summer workshops, Burrer received a call from Varone during the rehearsal process for his iconic work, Lux; he asked her to fill in for a dancer. Of course, she jumped at the opportunity, as well as Varone’s invitation to attend an open call audition. Of the three hundred women at the audition, Burrer was one of three to make it to the end. Unfortunately, she was not offered the position and was told that she was too tall, but six months later, Varone called her to offer her a spot in the company. She spent eight years performing and teaching, which was especially critical in forming the artist and educator she is today. She also noted that she loves restaging Varone’s repertory because it “gives college students a taste of his world,” and this way of working combines the best of teaching, choreographing, and digging deeply into the movement vocabulary.
In January 2015, after eight fulfilling years with Doug Varone and Dancers, Burrer completed her final tour with the company, and that spring, taught as an adjunct instructor at Barnard College and Marymount Manhattan College, both in New York City. After marrying her husband, Ben, the two drove to Seattle to begin their next chapter. Burrer chose to attend University of Washington to pursue her M.F.A. for many reasons, one being the thesis requirement. Instead of making a new choreographic work, which is the model of many programs, University of Washington requires its graduate students to design a course. Burrer created an undergraduate dance history course, which she has been able to implement here at Brockport this semester. Additionally, her current teaching load includes modern dance technique for multiple levels of dance majors and a repertory class, the product of which will be performed in the upcoming performance of Danscore. She is excited to teach such a wide range of courses and to further diversify her load next semester with freshmen modern technique, Contact Improvisation, and both composition and pedagogy for graduate students. Burrer is especially looking forward to continuing to work with graduate students in various capacities.
On the subject of choosing Brockport, Burrer first explained the familiarity associated with Hartwell Hall, since the Doug Varone Summer Workshop historically happened here. She also noted that she was interested in teaching in a program with high caliber dancers and rigorous training that was not a conservatory. Additionally, since the Department welcomed three new full time faculty members, there is an exciting amount of change happening and multiple opportunities for her voice to be heard. She posited, “How do we celebrate what we do well and then expand in other new and exciting ways?” She finished her thoughts on a positive note, “I feel excited to be here and to be interacting with the students and the faculty…getting to settle into what Brockport dance offers and what it could potentially offer in the future.”