Arts Spotlight: Wiggling our Toes with Alexandra Burchette…

Alexandra gestures towards the sky. Trees are in the background. Below are artistic images of shadows.

…Dance Program Assistant by Day and an Artist All the Time.

This pandemic might keep us physically apart, but the arts are still engaging and connecting our community. As part of our Arts Spotlight series, Arts NC State will be featuring articles on students, organizations, and faculty/staff who are creating and making. 

This month Alexandra Burchette, Arts NC State Dance Program Assistant and NC State alumna, reflects on the unique projects, importance of artist pay, and the peace through relaxation and play that she has found during the pandemic. 

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Left: Alexandra Burchette portrait at Talley Student Union (Photo/Ross Joyner)

What is your role in the Dance Program?

I work as the program assistant for the Dance Program at NC State. On any given day that can include marketing and visuals, social media, contracting artists, meeting about programming, hemming costumes, and generally being open to whatever is needed.

My work with the Dance Program has really expanded my understanding of what it takes to make the artmaking process available. As a performer and Dance Program alumna myself, I have experienced firsthand the transformative power of artist residencies, concerts, masterclasses, and thought provoking panels. These opportunities never happen in isolation and require a web of administrative support. Although the labor of scheduling, planning, signing contracts, etc. never struck me as “creative,” this job has shown me just how integral they are in allowing creative work to happen. 

Something I am currently loving about my role is that I get to facilitate artists getting paid for their work. We desperately need artists to be able to make a living and remain working– without them where would our culture exist? Particularly in this pandemic era I love that as a program we can partner with artists to enrich the education of our students and make sure they continue to have paid work.

How did you get here?

As a kid I was always wiggling, walking on my toes, and making up choreography to Spice Girls songs. It was the 90s.

Alexandra Irish dancing as a kid (Photo/Courtesy of Artist)

My loving parents took note and started me in ballet classes that turned into tap and jazz classes which, eventually, after a wonderful demonstration at an Irish cultural festival, led to Irish dancing. Many of these forms were incredibly valuable to me as a kid and laid a foundation that I still pull from. It’s the Irish dancing that I’m drawn to today– a learning experience that was rooted in movement and also joyful communal tradition.

As a high school student I had a pivotal experience the summer I attended North Carolina’s Governor’s School for dance. This was my first experience with modern dance and a cerebral approach to dance making. We danced to live music every day, practiced yoga and pilates, and ended up creating a very chaotic, very satisfying performance that happened in the campus cafeteria involving banging on tables and wearing hazmat suits. I was totally enamoured. 

Our class was also taken to watch performances at the American Dance Festival, something I still do as an adult. 

When I came to NC State to study textile design, I wanted some continuation of that Governor’s School experience. I found that in the Dance Program and spent my collegiate years as a part of the Panoramic Dance Project. Under the mentorship of Tara Mullins, Robin Harris, and Autumn Mist Belk, I really flourished and continued to discover my practice of dance and creation. A few years after graduating I saw a job posting to work with the program and knew I had to apply– now here we are!

Alexandra performing in Autumn’ Belk’s 2019 faculty concert piece. (Photo/ Robert Davezac)

Tell us about your artistic practice during the pandemic. How has it changed the way you work and the work itself?

Sustaining a creative life within this pandemic time has reminded me of the seasonality of work and rest.

We tend to be so focused on productivity to gauge our success, but what about the parts of life that have no tangible product? What about the season of sitting in the quiet? For me, this is also a crucial part of art making and being human. 

I have found more time for playfulness and rest lately, especially as most of my dance practice is now in my own home. Lately I’ve been playing with shadows and doing improvisation with the shadows around my house. The motif of being seen/unseen may have something to do with the tension between remaining connected virtually but being physically distant.

My creative habit has been one of those things keeping me connected within isolation. The fall/winter of 2020 was full of finding new ways to keep working through safety restrictions.
In my faith community, the weeks before Christmas are a sacred time for contemplation and spiritual preparation. During that time I was able to lead a community art project that culminated in a video installation outdoors

Alexandra gestures towards the sky. Trees are in the background. Below are artistic images of shadows.
Collage from Alexandra’s pandemic works/playing with shadows (Photo/courtesy of artist)

I also began rehearsing with a local company, KT Collective, for their current season. Having weekly rehearsals, even over Zoom, has given me a sense of purpose and normalcy.

Before the pandemic began I would have been much more resistant to virtual work. I dearly miss being in the studio with other artists but am incredibly indebted to technology for giving avenues to stay connected. Without these tools for collaboration, my creative practice would be flat.

I’m currently enjoying being an artist liaison for the Brehm Residency through Fuller Seminary, gathering virtually each month for artist retreats and processing through the integration of art and theology. I’m also looking forward to a virtual performance in the spring with KT Collective.

Contributing writer Christy Rain

To learn more about the Dance Program visit: