Dance City is a competitive youth dance crew of North Minneapolis. The traveling team took a group of 25 girls to Las Vegas this past June for the Battle of the Stars national dance competition. Dance City took home first place against more than 100 other teams competing from across the country.
Cierra Burnaugh is the founder of Dance City Minneapolis. The 33 year old has always loved dance, and trained at both the Hollywood Studio of Dance and the Art of Dance studio growing up.
“Being born and raised over North, both of my parents born and raised over North, and both of my grandparents being born and raised over North, it's in me. It's instilled in me. And it was especially important for me to make sure that I was doing things that I was passionate about, and things that I learned that helped me grow. And that I poured it back into my community, making sure that little brown girls from the hood have a safe space to dance, learn, and be free.”
Burnaugh started Dance City in 2015, serving girls aged three to 18. She says it’s her way of spreading love to a community that is often plagued with negativity due to disproportionate racial, environmental, economic and systemic factors. Burnaugh says she sees her role as more than a dance teacher. She says it's an opportunity to contribute to the healing of young Black girls.
“I actually had one girl a few years ago who asked me why you always tell us you love us? And I was like, because Black girls need to hear that and they need to feel it,” she said. “I can always tell who comes from a household that may not verbalize, I love you. But I don't want it to be foreign. I want you to feel it. They can't hear enough how beautiful they are and how strong they are and how intelligent they are, and how much of enough they are, just who they are right now. So dance is just the cherry on top. It's community first. It’s love first.”
Burnaugh says this love is what carried the team to victory at the competition. She says, despite being one of the few Black dance groups and competing against more commercial dance crews, she always reminds her girls to be their authentic selves.
“It's extremely important to let these girls know that when you come here, I don't want you to water yourself down - there's no code switching over here. The West Coast is tough competition, because you have dancers that are literally homeschooled, who dance on Disney Channel, who–this is all they do. I think what separates us and allows us to do well in more commercial spaces, is because we are not commercial. We are who we are, and commercial mimics that,” said Burnaugh. “There is something to be said when you can be authentically yourself and still come out on top. I think people are craving the authenticity of who you are culturally. And I constantly tell the girls ‘just know that they wish they could do what you do naturally.’”
Dance City will be hosting auditions for the upcoming season in August.