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North Myrtle Beach native taps into ‘World of Dance’ premiere

Aaron Burr just can’t stop steppin’ into new echelons in his life of dancing.

The North Myrtle Beach native, who has tap danced with Tommy Tune and at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland, all before adulthood, will compete as part of the five-man troupe Rhythmatic on the series premiere of NBC-TV’s “World of Dance,” at 10 p.m. Tuesday. The 10 weekly episodes will air on WMBF-TV 32 in Myrtle Beach, WCBD-TV 2 in Charleston, and WECT-TV 6 in Wilmington, N.C.

Look for Rhythmatic in the “Team” division, among groups of five or more adults each. Burr, 23, danced in the ensemble at the Alabama Theatre, from ages 13 to 18, and has lived in New York for three years.

The Alabama Theatre’s president, Bob Wood, called Burr “a great talent and a truly fine person.”

“All of us really enjoyed having him in our cast,” Wood said. “We’ll be cheering for him to go all the way on ‘World of Dance.’ ”

Burr took a few moments this past week to retrace some steps since “I grew up tap dancing at the Alabama Theatre.”

Q: When you were younger, what part of tap unlocked the door into a whole, new world around which your whole life revolves today? A certain performer or show?

A: When I was 6 years old, I wanted to quit dance. The kids at school found out I danced and began calling me “ballerina boy,” among other names. The funny thing was, I wasn’t very good at ballet! I told my mom that I wanted to quit and she made me call my dance teacher, Paula Mann, and tell her myself. Thankfully Ms. Paula wouldn’t let me quit. That same year, my mom showed me a video of “Tap Dogs.” It’s a ninety-minute tap dance show that originated in Australia. I fell in love with it instantly. I attended their auditions in New York City about two years ago, got the job, and toured internationally with the show.

Q: Having performed on TV such as on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent” and for audiences overseas, how much easier might taking part in this new series taking its first big step on May 30 be?

A: Honestly, the “World of Dance” stage was probably the most difficult stage I’ve ever performed on. I kept telling myself before I went on that I had danced on many other stages similar to this one, but when I got out there, the adrenaline really took over on a whole new level. The way the audience surrounds you on all sides, and how loud they get, are some things you can’t really prepare for, in my opinion.

Q: How did you learn of your group’s qualifying for “World of Dance,” and how did that process differ from other endeavors sought?

A: The folks at “World of Dance” discovered our group, Rhythmatic, at the Capezio Ace Awards in New York City, which is a professional choreography competition that happens annually. I wasn’t an original company member, but one of the dancers was getting married in Brazil during part of the filming. I actually didn’t meet some of the company members until we got to Los Angeles a day before filming.

Q: Through the years, a viewer might turn on “The Lawrence Welk Show” to see a tap dancer take a turn in the spotlight, or even the episode of “Sanford & Son,” from the 1970s, on which Demond Wilson (Lamont Sanford) showed his flair on a wooden floor. In what formats does tap maintain a steady presence today, and how easy is attracting youth to learn the art?

A: Tap dancing is a beautiful American art form that will always have a presence in the arts community. As a young dancer, I fell in love with tap dancers such as Gregory Hines, Tommy Tune, and Savion Glover. There are many more iconic tap dancers as well. Unfortunately, I do feel that tap dancing has been pushed to the side in some dance communities. We’re the only tap group competing on the show because it’s not as popular as hip-hop or contemporary dance styles these days. My ultimate goal is to inspire a new generation of tap dancers that will continue to push the art and create some amazing future works.

Q: What’s the most vivid memory, or lesson learned to last a lifetime, from touring with Tommy Tune in “Dr. Dolittle”?

A: I was very fortunate to tour with Tommy Tune for nine months when I was 12 years old, and had the honor of performing a tap duet alongside Mr. Tune nightly. Mr. Tune loves the theater and he taught me to do the same. He had nine Tony Awards at the time and has received the lifetime Tony since then. If you met him, the last thing he’d ever mention is his achievements. He’s the most kind and giving person I know. He would pull me aside at some of the older theaters we were playing and teach me different things about the venue or how it used to be during the Vaudeville era. When I left the tour and came back to North Myrtle Beach Middle School, I knew I had to pursue theater.

Q: Sitting in the audience today at the Alabama Theatre’s “One the Show,” how surreal or different would the experience be for you, thinking back to all the Christmas seasons you spent performing there as a teen, on the road to bigger steps in your career?

A: I will always love the Alabama Theatre. The crews there provided an opportunity for me to perform in front of an audience nightly while living a regular childhood in North Myrtle Beach. The choreographer at the Alabama Theatre, Jean Whittaker, is another major influence of mine. I feel very lucky to have learned from her because she has an immense amount of experience in this industry. Many of her dancers have performed on Broadway stages, and I hope to join their ranks one of these days.

Contact Steve Palisin at 843-444-1764.

If you watch

WHO: Aaron Burr, North Myrtle Beach native, performing with Rhythmatic, in Team division, among groups of five or more adults each.

WHAT: Series premiere for 10 weekly episodes of “World of Dance”

WHEN: 10 p.m. Tuesday

WHERE: NBC – WMBF-TV 32 in Myrtle Beach, WCBD-TV 2 in Charleston, and WECT-TV 6 in Wilmington, N.C.