Skip to content

Alvin Ailey dancer Briana Reed offer tips on how to succeed as a career performer

While a kindergartener, Briana Reed had aspirations to become a dancer. “There were some girls in my kindergarten class who were in ballet. I’d see them dancing around and I wanted to do it. I came home and told my mom that I was going to start taking dance classes and what her carpool schedule would be. I was pretty determined,” recalls the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater 16-year veteran.

Reed’s mother wasn’t convinced that little Briana needed to focus on one sport or extracurricular activity so she signed her up for tennis and flute lessons. “I was just not that good, one, and I was horrible playing the flute. With dance, it was a feeling that I didn’t feel with anything else. It’s a way of expressing myself. Even at that young age, I couldn’t say the things that I wanted to say but I could express my feelings through movement,” she adds.

Even though she didn’t resume dance until she was in middle school and after prompting by a previous instructor, Reed never lost her passion. It was her gift and what she describes as a “blood memory,” things that you just remember in your soul, as referenced by company founder Alvin Ailey.

“My teacher found me and told me that she had to get me back in dance and ‘you’re supposed to be a dancer.’ I had people there to support me and I knew it in my soul. It was good to have someone facilitate the dream,” offers the St. Petersburg, Fla., native who began her dance training at the Academy of Ballet Arts and The Pinellas County Center for Arts.

Reed studied at The Ailey School as a scholarship student. In 1997, she graduated from The Juilliard School and became a member of Ailey II. A licensed Gyrotonic instructor, she joined the company in 1998.

What words of inspirations can she offer to an aspiring dancer who’d like to follow her career path?

1. Do not give up.

2. Don’t take things personally. This is a hard career; we’re working and traveling all the time. When you are giving your all and you really care about something, and you feel that someone doesn’t have your best interest at heart and you feel they’re approaching you negatively, turn it around. Use that energy to push you towards your goal.

3. It’s easy to say it was that person’s fault, my mom or my dad. At the end of the day, you’re responsible for your actions.