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Life & Work with Atarius Armstrong

Today we’d like to introduce you to Atarius Armstrong. 

Hi Atarius, please kick things off for us with an introduction to yourself and your story.
Sometimes it’s so difficult to say where I started because nothing about my trajectory has been linear. I was a “late-bloomer” to dance as a BFA Musical Theatre major at the University of Mississippi (2015). My first official dance class was Tap 1, and although I struggled a bit, I found so much joy in picking up new rhythms. Whenever my instructor decided to switch up class and bring in a new dance style, there was something so comforting about the contemporary movements. I decided to continue nurturing my love for dance by attending multiple American Collegiate Dance Festivals, workshops, and dance classes when and wherever I could. After graduating, I moved to Atlanta to continue my career in musicals. I’ve been blessed to have been able to do some amazing productions in the area. however, in 2019 I decided to make a pivot in my career and decided to focus my efforts on web development and analytics. By 2020 I decided to form ALA Dance as a virtual project with my close dance friends from college which quickly evolved into a physical dance company in the fall with our first live performance at the Fall for Fall Dance Festival. 

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Some things have come easier than others, but there have definitely been bumps and bruises down my path. When I moved to Atlanta, I was fortunate enough to have booked gigs – from big to small – fairly consistently. It wasn’t until around late 2018 that I’d reached a point of burnout. Various factors turned my passion for performance into more hassle than reward, so I needed to take a break. I’d grown tired of juggling several projects at once only to barely breathe financially, so I decided to leap into a career in tech. I still performed a few times after making the change, but I knew that dance and theatre would make their way back to me when the time was right. In 2020 I founded my dance company, ALA Dance, to create a safe, creative space for a diverse group of movement artists. Three weeks before premiering our work “1221” at Excuse the Art, my father passed from heart failure. I had no clue whether or not I was ready to even return for the showing. Fortunately, I had a group of friends who were there to support me through the grief. ALA was ultimately created as a healing space, and my dancers kept it as such in my time of need. 

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I’m most drawn to figuring out how I can “connect the dots”. In my storyline, in others’, from family patterns to social movements. Through intrapersonal investigation with my dancers, I look to find intersectionality among us and figure out how that can be applied to the work. My process is physical, athletic, and experimental. Sometimes it’s formulated from imagery, phrases, data and statistics, sharing, and feedback. Things stick and sometimes they don’t, but I ultimately create from a source of truth and love. 

Where we are in life is often partly because of others. Who/what else deserves credit for how your story turned out?
So many people! My mom and sister are my biggest cheerleaders and help me keep my head on straight when all else fails. Diarra Webb for helping me stay grounded, intentional, and in alignment with my purpose. Zeke Alejandro and his family for being my second family. And of course, the ALA Dancers for being amazing collaborators and being so willing to share their gifts. 

Contact Info:

  • Email: atariusarmstrong@gmail.com
  • Website: https://ala.dance
  • Instagram: @atariusarmstrong

Image Credits
Cody Jacques
Kaleb Mitchell
Christina Massad
Anne Mancuso

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