By Kristina Huderski
Senior dance major Rhaamell Burke-Missouri is proof that you don’t have to find your passion at a young age in order to succeed. Burke-Missouri did not start dancing until the age of 19, but has been in love with it ever since. Now at the age of 23, Burke-Missouri took the Fall 2016 semester off to go on a Broadway tour that would change his life forever.
Born in Queens, NY and raised in Queens and Holy Spring, North Carolina, Burke-Missouri had no idea what he wanted to spend his life doing at an early age. In high school, he became interested in dance and began to learn the basics. Burke-Missouri then started his journey, in the dance program where he discovered that dance truly is his passion. “It wasn’t always a passion because I thought it was really weird for a man to love dance. So it took me doing it after high school to see how truly passionate I am about dance,” Burke-Missouri said.
With a desire to return to New York, Burke-Missouri joined the program in 2013. Admissions told Burke-Missouri something before he attended the university that really caught his eye. “They told me flat-out that my technique wasn’t where it needed to be for a professional career, but the passion I danced with made them see so much in me. That is what made me come here. They told me that they would mold me into something great and so far, they have,” Burke-Missouri said. He takes classes in ballet, jazz, modern dance, tap dance, African dance, and hip-hop. Some students feel that dance is not an “actual major,” but Burke-Missouri ignores all negative comments that he receives. “I know it’s a major and it is something that I will be doing for the rest of my life, so I look at them and show that dance is not only a major but a fun and enjoyable career choice.” Burke-Missouri believes that the university has helped his career tremendously. “Post allowed me to go out and learn more about dance. I started taking class in the city and meeting so many people in the dance world through that. I can honestly say that the professors here at Post allowed the drive and determination that was already in me to flourish into something strong.”
In summer 2016, Burke-Missouri received his first professional theatre contract. He was a featured dancer in a summer season at Woodstock Playhouse, and soon after that, he signed a second contract to go on a Broadway tour.
In Burke-Missouri’s Fall 2016 semester, he decided to go on tour with the show Cinderella across America and Canada. In order to do so, Burke-Missouri woke up at 6 a.m. and made his way into Manhattan for an audition. Afterwards, he attended callback after callback and sent in dance videos whenever needed. Burke-Missouri always wanted to be on Broadway, and in order to do so, he was told he would have to become a “triple threat.” Burke-Missouri began singing and acting alongside dance. “When I came to college, I literally did everything that I could to learn more about what it took to get to Broadway. So that means taking voice lessons, taking as many acting classes and of course, dancing until my legs fall off,” Burke-Missouri said.
While on the Broadway tour, Burke-Missouri was a swing, or an understudy for all male ensemble parts. On the tour, he understudied 6 1/2 parts. “I would rehearse a different part of the show EVERY night because my job was to be ready to go on stage at a drop of a hat and do the show as if nothing was wrong and as if I did the show every night with the cast. When I got the offer, I was told that it was the HARDEST job in theatre. Now I know that to be true.”
Burke-Missouri said it feels different to be back at Post after taking off a semester. “I got to go out in the world and do the thing that I learn about every day here at Post.” Being in Cinderella changed the way he looks at his education. “Being a swing is hard and it was only my second job when it comes to theatre, so I had a lot of learning to do on the tour. Now that I am back, I get to have the opportunity to get that knowledge without the stress of having to get out on stage and be a part of a big production like Cinderella,” Burke-Missouri said. Being back at Post allows him to “fine tune” his skills and make him a better dancer in order to get him where he wants to be.
Burke-Missouri wants to graduate from college before making any other big plans, such as a national tour. “My second near-future goal is to go out into the world and learn as much as I can about what I do to make me an even more well-rounded person. When it comes to my dreams, I got to do that when I was on tour.” Burke-Missouri believes he is already living out his dreams and has finally found his voice in the world of theatre. “Now I know my worth and talent; in my eyes, that’s a dream come true.”