It may come as a surprise to those that see the passion she conveys in every performance, but Australia’s famed dancer Cersha Burn did not always love dancing. In fact, when she first began dance at just three years of age, she rather hated it.
Growing up in the small town of Taree, New South Wales, Burn would wail and cry uncontrollably when her mother would drop her off at a dance class. At the time, leaving her parents to be in a room full of strangers was intimidating and unenjoyable, but her mother would not let her quit, certain that her daughter possessed a natural talent for the craft. These instincts proved correct, as the more Burn danced, the more she began to fall in love, feeling a rush of adrenaline every time she performed. Dance allowed her to access art, expression and herself in a way that other activities never did, and she knew she had to dedicate her life to those feelings.
Now, Burn is an internationally sought-after professional dancer and performer, spending each and every day doing what she loves so dearly. She has performed all over the world, from her home of Australia at the world’s largest fun run City2Surf Sydney, to the Philippines on Walang Tulugan, the longest running late night television variety show in the Philippines broadcast by the GMA Network, to her current home of Los Angeles at many celebrated events, including South Central Dance Festival.
“I’ve had the privilege of working with Cersha as the director of two short dance films.
Cersha brought the films to life with her emotive, legato movement,” said Filmmaker Taso Papadakis. “Cersha is professional, creative and infuses a great life force into her poetic movement. As an artist, it is plainly evident that she is deeply committed to and loves her form of practice.”
Burn has had tremendous success throughout her career, but it is working on CBS Stephanie’s Day that stands out for the dancer as the real highlight. CBS Stephanie’s Day is an event at CBS Studios, Los Angeles that celebrates the autistic community showcasing a variety of resources for the autistic and special needs. The event attendance exceeds 5000 people and is sponsored by CBS 2 and KCAL 9. Stephanie’s Day combined Burn’s passion for performing and her passion in advocating for autism in the arts, specifically dance.
“Sponsored by major television networks CBS 2 and KCAL 9, the event crossed over into mainstream media and went beyond the community of live audiences there. I always think it is important to bring dance performances to the community outside of the dance industry, to highlight dance performances and to do it in a big way such as the event CBS Stephanie’s Day. Although dance is often partaken at social events and throughout culture it is not often seen as a profession and a vital art form that pumps through our nations and lives. CBS Stephanie’s Day is recognized by CBS 2 and KCAL 9 and is a doorway for the recognition of professional dance in mainstream media and the community,” said Burn.
Burn performed with GuiDance Autism, a non-profit organization developed to expose children and young adults with autism to the arts. It serves students of all levels in “..an environment of compassion that leads to transformation, the GuiDANCE Autism team of practitioners used the medium of dance along with respite techniques and rhythmic music to enable them to break through their shells and connect to their surrounding world,” according to their website.
Burn was responsible for not only performing at the event, but also preparing and rehearsing with two casts of dancers to perform different pieces on stage. They rehearsed for three months leading up to the performance where Burn got to partake in weekly rehearsals, teaching and assisting in choreographing movement and stage direction. On the day of the performance, she helped co-ordinate and rehearse the dancers before their stage performance and then lead the performance as lead dancer with them on stage. She accepted such a great amount of responsibility with a high level of professionalism and executed her role flawlessly.
“I loved the community. The community of dancers in rehearsals, dancers on stage and the community that is CBS Stephanie’s Day. A well-organized event that not only served as a place for networking within the community, but also provided a space for dance performance to come to the forefront. Any chance where dance can be viewed by people that are not within the dance industry and aren’t particularly seeking out dance is always a great opportunity to be a part of and spread the joy and communicative tool of this art form,” she said.
Burn has received countless accolades over the span of her career, but what she is most proud of is the work and community she has found in dance and autism. Growing up with a cousin with autism and seeing his joy and burning desire to always dance, Burn developed a keen interest to teach dance to youth with autism.
“I had a desire to share that creativity with a community I felt was underserved from the joy of a passion that burns inside all of us wanting to be expressed. After working with schools and youth with autism and CBS Stephanie’s Day it became apparent that the unrelenting focus on one’s passions from those with autism is what drove the catalyst and focus for sharing my performing career,” said Burn.
Burn has continued to work with GuiDance Autism and will perform at the next Stephanie’s Day after the pandemic.
Photo by Gilberto Godoy