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Olivia Burgess: Dancer, Model, & Photographer

Imagine being told you might not be able to do what you love.  Olivia Burgess shows us how to be a bad ass despite limitations and how to find new...

Imagine being told you might not be able to do what you love.  Olivia Burgess shows us how to be a bad ass despite limitations and how to find new passions along the way.  With that we introduce our very first Girl Crush Olivia.

The moment we met Olivia we were in love.  She exudes warmth and effortless beauty. She invited us to her home in Greenpoint, Brooklyn where we photographed her wearing her impossibly cool vintage denim collection with Thistle & Spire lingerie.  Her unique beauty shines through whether dancing in the spotlight or in her photographs in the background as the photographer.  See below for her interview and prepare to develop a serious crush if you haven't already.

How did you get into Dance?

I was an active baby! Always walking on my toes, back-bending from my crib, I have the pictures to prove it.  My mom put me in ballet when I was three to keep me from tearing up our apartment.   Gymnastics was always my favorite but by the age of 12, I realized that I probably wasn't going to make it to the Olympics.  So I decided to drop everything and make dance my focus.

I moved up to New York in 2010 to get my BFA in dance with the Fordham/Ailey School.  Training at Ailey offered me many unique opportunities, like performing alongside the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at New York's City Center, taking class with ABT Principal Misty Copeland and participating in Cirque Du Soleil workshops.  Unfortunately, by the end of my junior year my knee was literally in shreds.  My entire senior year was spent at my mom's house in Washington DC recovering from knee surgery.  It was pretty painful both physically and emotionally, as I wasn't sure if I'd ever be able to dance again.  I was heartbroken.  Dance had become an integral part of my identity and I didn't know who I was if I wasn't a dancer.

When did you start pursuing photography?

In my desperation to find another creative outlet while I recovered, I purchased my first DSLR camera a few months after my (second) knee operation.   I knew that photography wouldn't fill the void but it did give me the necessary distraction that developed into something more.  There is so much to learn and explore in that field.

What are you most excited about currently?

Right now I'm really excited about photography.  In the end I was able to return to dance and graduate from Fordham/Ailey but things haven't been the same for me since the surgery.  Dancing used to be such a release but today when I step into a dance studio I'm confronted by a number of physical limitations.  I have no constraints with photography.  My only challenge is the mystery of the unknown and the vast possibilities that are available, which is why I'm so eager to learn more about the craft!

What song do you have on repeat?

A friend of mine in Paris recently passed this along to me and I've had it on repeat ever since!

What's your idea of a perfect day of in Brooklyn?

Here's my summer cocktail for the perfect Brooklyn day: a trip to either McCarren Pool or the Far Rockaways (in good company of course) + good food + outdoor dance party + some spontaneous adventure

Favorite Brooklyn Spots

  • Food: Greenpoint Fish & Lobster Co., Cafe Mogador Bedford on Bedford, Maison Premiere

  • Shopping: Mirth, Narnia, Brooklyn Artists & Flea, 10 Foot Single

  • Dance: Brooklyn Mirage, Mister Sunday, Output Rooftop (I met my boyfriend of two years up there!)


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