Kari Burke is afraid of heights. That’s exactly why she swings from a harness 200 feet in the air. She’s a dancer, aerialist, and our studio manager here at Originator.
Burke performed in her first professional show at 16. She majored in dance at Hope College and studied everything from capoeira to tap. After working as a choreographer in a professional theatre company, she moved to Austin.
She saw that aerial silks were rising in popularity (and wanted to challenge her fear of heights), so she started taking classes at Blue Lapis Light. She already had her sights set on being a part of the company. She volunteered for every show, doing any odd job to show that she was committed and passionate about joining. A year later, she was flying around the J.W. Marriott as an official member of the Blue Lapis Light aerial dance company.
“I feel like I am less than one percent of the human population that has gotten to experience actually flying,” Burke says. “There’s just nothing like it and I feel so grateful to have a chance to do something so ridiculous and get paid to do it.”
Originator Studios filmed some of these performances, which is how Burke first got acquainted with studio owners Derek Gildersleeve and Willie Rockefeller. She accepted a position with them as studio manager, and has been with Originator ever since. But there was one thing she still wanted to do.
“I saw that grid in the studio and knew I had to hang from it,” Burke says.
Luckily, she would get that chance when she collaborated with photographer David Heisler. Heisler, a tenant at Originator, studied his craft under celebrity photographer Greg Gorman. Together they used to photograph the Cirque du Soleil, the Atherton twins, and other dancerly acts. Heisler said bringing that energy into the Originator studio was a blast to work with.
The shoot was quick and simple. Beforehand, Heisler showed Burke some images for inspiration. Burke crafted a routine based off of them, but also allowed some space for improvisations. She performed while David snapped away.
“If I saw something cool, I could direct her back into that and she would get back there quickly,” Heisler says. “She has a finesse that amateurs lack.”
Despite Burke’s initial nervousness about collaborating with such a renowned photographer, both Burke and Heisler agree that the shoot went very well. These photographs are a testament to Burke’s journey through the dance world, conquering her fears, and continuing to soar.