Todd Burnsed hoped joining Jessica Lang Dance would lessen his touring, but the troupe is too hot to slow down
They say in business “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Well, it doesn’t hurt in the dance world, either.
Todd Burnsed was a freshman at Juilliard when he first saw a senior named Jessica Lang choreograph her first dance. Even then, he knew she was someone to watch.
“I remember being jealous of the dancers in [her number], even though she was just a senior,” he says now, many years later. “You could see something was going to happen.”
But, as happens with schoolmates, they lost touch and went their separate ways. Then last summer, they reconnected “when I heard she was looking for a new male dancer to join her company,” Burnsed says.
Burnsed had been traveling with the avant garde troupe MOMIX for several years, but was interested in exploring something new. And the ground-floor of a new dance troupe seemed like the perfect match.
“MOMIX toured constantly,” he laments. A new company would provide a little breathing room, he surmised.
Ohhhh, if only. Even though it’s just two years old, Jessica Lang Dance is making major waves in dance circles.
“A lot of things are happening really fast,” Burnsed says. “I get this call, ‘Pack your bags, cuz we’re about to see the world.’”
Starting in July, the company went to Jacob’s Pillow before arriving in Dallas courtesy of TITAS on Sept. 14.
“There’s a lot of excitement in the company and about the company,” Burnsed says.
But there’s more to the new position than just a new tour schedule. Burnsed is getting to explore different aspects of his craft.
“MOMIX has a lot more props and sheer brute strength as well as keeping things dance-oriented and artistic,” he says. “Jessica’s work is very visual — not like MOMIX, not a sculpture — but an atmosphere.”
The company will be bringing some of that creativity to Dallas.
“We will be performing i.n.k. in Dallas, which is a collaboration with a visual artist including video projections with liquid. And the Crow Collection will be doing a show around the same time” tied into their performance, he says. And it helps to know the boss.
“It’s a very collaborative atmosphere, very much a group effort, but it all comes out of her mind and body,” he says. “Jessica allows us to shade it and color it.”
This will be a company premiere in North Texas, but not Burnsed’s local debut: He was here with the Dallas Summer Musicals several years ago, dancing in Twyla Tharp’s adaptation of Billy Joel songs, Movin’ Out. “I did that tour for 2-1/2 years,” he says. “I auditioned six times.”
Burnsed and his partner of seven years both wish there was less touring to his schedule. But they are willing to make an exception.
“I’ve never been to Paris, but hopefully we’re going for three weeks next year,” he says.
Because when it comes to visiting Paris, there’s always time for another tour.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 13, 2013.