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Art & Life with Riley Cooper


Today we’d like to introduce you to Riley Cooper.

Riley, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
New chapters of my story are being written every day, with every new experience I have and every connection I make. The first chapter was composed in Lawrenceville, GA, when I discovered dance as a young girl at a local studio. When I got a taste of the art form through ballet, I craved to expand my palate, and did so over the following years through various genres of movement: modern, jazz, tap, theater, contemporary, and many more.

I have always been a natural performer, partly due to my extroverted, slightly over-dramatic personality as a child. Don’t worry… I’ve mellowed out a bit. (Sort of.) The middle child of a very musical family, with two siblings on the Autism spectrum, my life has always been a bit unconventional – crazy, even. Yet, I feel like I wouldn’t be the artist that I am today without every tiny detail of my upbringing.

When I started progressing as an advanced student, I joined the Pre-Professional ballet company Northeast Atlanta Ballet under Jennifer Gordon, where I honed my technique and began premiering in many soloist and principal roles on stage in classical and contemporary works. Throughout my Pre-Professional years, I attended many notable summer training sessions on full and partial scholarships such as Atlanta Ballet, USCSDC, Alonzo King LINES Ballet, and Nashville Ballet, where I was invited to stay for the year for their Trainee program, a position I accepted following high school graduation. Over the years, I’ve had the pleasure of being coached and invested in by Paul Vasterling (Artistic Director, Nashville Ballet), Stacey Calvert (NYCB), Tracey Julias (Joffery Ballet), Alonzo King (Artistic Director, LINES Ballet), and many others. Despite my classical ballet background, I have always had an aptitude and passion for contemporary movement. Attending LINES Ballet in San Francisco changed my artistic path and solidified the love I have for contemporary ballet.

A new chapter is being written for me as I move back to Atlanta, equipped with the tools and inspiration I need to bring the art of dance to the community through choreography, teaching, and performing.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
I am a movement maker, creativity facilitator, and artistic collaborator. I believe that there are powerful ways to communicate emotions and concepts that stretch beyond the spoken word. As a choreographer, my inspiration for choreography comes from many different places – images, phrases, sound, color, faith, opinion.

Merce Cunningham says, “Dancing has a continuity of its own that need not be dependent upon either the rise or fall of sound or the pitch and cry of words. Its force of feeling lies in the physical image, fleeting or static.”

Everyone can dance, and everyone can relate to dance. It is a form of communication that transcends language and dialect. My belief is that it is a vital part of a well-functioning society or community. As a teacher, I believe that true personal success is found through a humble, hardworking, positive attitude. In my classes and rehearsals, I cultivate and challenge dancers to have open minds, full commitment, and to trust themselves and their capabilities. Love should always be held above fear, and that belief is what gives a dancer their truest creative essence.

My works are very collaborative, and I seek to utilize and unite various forms of expression in my creations – visual art, music, spoken word, etc. I am a very open choreographer, interested in my dancer’s artistic voices, so my goal is to work with my dancers to create personal, relatable, thought-provoking pieces that impact the audience and start conversations.

Acts 17:28

In your view, what is the biggest issue artists have to deal with?
I think that funding for the arts is a huge issue that artists face today. That, and being accessible to the audience. These two challenges walk hand in hand sometimes.

The research that has been done to prove the importance of art’s impact on people in society speaks for itself. The cognitive benefits of art, as well as the economical, are also worth mentioning. In this world, there are a lot of people who feel that they do not have a voice. I believe that dance is a method of communication that gives everyone a voice. Imagine the change that could take place if dance was given its own voice, through more funding, more collaboration, more priority in the community.

Due to a lack of government funding, private grants and donations are next to necessity for aspiring local artists. Practically, there is a lot that goes into creating: rehearsal facility, salary, equipment, performance facility, costumes, stage crew, etc. Artists are often too willing to “starve for their art.” This is because we are passionate people who want to enrich the community through art, no matter the cost.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
An inside look at my work in Atlanta as a freelance performer and choreographer can be found through my various social media outlets (, If you have an aspiring artist in your family, my teaching schedule is available per request. Private lessons are available in ALL styles and techniques for ALL ages and levels.

I will be offering contemporary ballet classes and contemporary workshops in the area, so if you are local, stay linked with me through Instagram and Facebook!

If you are interested in choreography or master classes, I invite you to email me ( and check out my website for class offerings. If you are a dancer or artist in the Atlanta area and are interested in collaborating, please email your information / resume to

Supporting the arts is CRUCIAL for society and the economy. I encourage you to please consider donating your available resources in support of furthering art education and community outreaches.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Scott Nilsson, Catherine Goertz, Jennifer Silas Photography

Getting in touch: VoyageATL is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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