Ashley Burkland still remembers falling in love with ballet during her first Nutcracker performance at the age of 9. The dancer and owner of Ashley Ballet Arts Academy says her mother’s decision to enroll her in a dance class is what led to her early introduction to ballet. “As a 2-year-old, I was mimicking steps outside my sister's dance class,” Burkland says. “So my mom knew she had to put me in as soon as I turned 3.”
During her Nutcracker performance, Burkland says, “I learned what all the hard work was about at the barre, the reward of being on the stage, and everything that had to offer: the friendships, the costumes, performing...doing what you love in front of people. That got me hooked.”
Burkland studied dance at the University of Arizona and eventually earned a bachelor of arts degree with an emphasis in ballet and jazz from the University of Minnesota. Over the next 10 years, Burkland performed with several professional dance companies in Madison, Wisconsin, and in the Twin Cities.
A pivotal moment arose for the Plymouth resident when she began teaching dance. “[The students] are such blank slates, open to trying new things, feeling their bodies move and just the way they can tell stories and express themselves,” she says. “It was such a positive experience. When I started to teach, I thought, ‘Yes, this is what I want to do with the rest of my life.”
In 2012, she launched Ashley Ballet Arts Academy (ABAA). By 2016, Burkland had the opportunity to move her growing classes to a studio space in Golden Valley.
Burkland helped with the design of the 7,500 square-foot space which encompasses three studios, lofty 20-foot ceilings, large windows and plenty of space for dancers to move. Currently, the academy has 230 students ranging from ages 3 to 18, and several adult classes. Burkland says about 90 percent of the students relocated with the studio during the move.
Tony and Kelly Selinger of Plymouth stayed with Burkland during the transition to the new studio. Their daughter, Lilah, has been dancing with ABAA since age 3.
The couple loved what the academy offered in terms of rigorous curriculum while emphasizing the beauty and enjoyable nature of dance. “Ballet involves grace, balance and discipline,” Kelly Bosco says. “Kids today live in a fast-paced world with so much noise and external stimuli. Ballet is a respite which quiets the mind and requires focus, while exposing the kids to a timeless discipline steeped in classical movement, music and language.”
Daughter Lilah, now age 8, adds, "I like the Défilé [spring recital] the best because everything we work on all year pays off at the big show."
ABAA highlights three major performances throughout the year: the Nutcracker in the fall, and the spring ballet and spring recital.
Rather than being a competitive dance studio, Burkland’s vision focuses on an environment where students can flourish in their journey to becoming dancers. "I think I offer the middle ground,” Burkland says. “Where I can inspire the dancers to become professional dancers, if that's what they want, or just good members of society. So I think people have been drawn to me for that reason."
2017 Summer Program: June 26-August 8
Pre-Dance (Ages 3-6) Classes: Pre- Ballet, Creative Movement, Dance Fusion
Junior (Ages 6-12) Classes: Ballet, Pointe & Variations, Modern, Contemporary, Jazz Funk, Strength and Stretch
Senior (Ages 12+) Classes: Ballet 2 & 3, Pointe & Variations, Adult Ballet, Beginning Modern, Intermediate/Advanced Modern, Intermediate/Advanced Contemporary, Jazz Funk
Summer schedule including class times and pricing available at the website here.