We had the good fortune of connecting with Riley Cooper and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Riley, how do you think about risk?
One of the most foundational pieces of wisdom ever passed along to me when I trained at LINES Ballet in Summer of 2018 was that “mistakes give us information.” It seems that in today’s society, we are terrified of making mistakes. This makes sense – our bodies are trying to protect us from the trauma of rejection, external or internal. This greatly limits us in our practices, though. Similar to how muscle fibers require being broken down in order to be rebuilt stronger, we must lay down our pride sometimes and risk falling down, messing up, and looking a fool so we can stretch ourselves into more confident artists. In a lot of ways, loving and accepting yourself is a huge risk and it’s one well worth taking.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I started at a smaller, local studio studying ballet, tap, jazz, modern, and a bit of theatre. When I got older and decided that I wanted to focus on ballet more, I moved studios and began training 6 days a week, performing in full length ballets and travelling over the summers participating in intensives and workshops. Following high school graduation, my dance journey took me to Nashville, Colorado, San Francisco, and more before I made my way back to Atlanta where I joined a local company and began studying Exercise Science and Business Administration.

After a year, I founded the Gwinnett Dance Project. My dance journey took me through a severe eating disorder and body dysmorphia, heartbreak, and spiritual discovery. I had to grow up a lot at a very young age. Even though it was challenging, everything that I have been through both big and small has informed how I can specifically speak into the lives of young students and dancers that I work with as a professional. The various ways that my heart has been cracked open and softened has created in me a vulnerability which I think sets me apart as an artist, informs how I approach my craft, and helps me understand my students. I value knowledge and I want to help dancers understand and appreciate their bodies. My studies in Biomechanics, Anatomy & Physiology, Exercise Psychology, and more have greatly improved my understanding of technique. My students can attest to how much I love to “geek out” over the science of dance.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I am Gwinnett County’s biggest fan. A current Lawrenceville resident and Barista by day, I would take them to all the coffee shops in our area – Boulder Creek Coffee (where I work), Cafe Blue, Gilly Brew Bar! We would go eat at Strange Taco, and definitely go hang at Suwanee Town Center. Stone Mountain is a beautiful local view, too. Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I would love to dedicate this Shoutout to some of the wonderful dance mentors and teachers who have greatly inspired me – Sarah Kelly Kerr, Miriam Morgan, Kate Linsley, and many more. And a big Shoutout to the beautiful dancers at Gwinnett Dance Project.

Website: https://rileycooperatl.wixsite.com/rcatl
Instagram: instagram.com/rileycooperatl
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rileycooperatl/
Other: https://gwinnettdanceproject.wixsite.com/gwinnettdanceproject

Image Credits
Steve McFarland; Catherine Goertz; Eyelight Photography; Ariane Reina Photography

Nominate Someone: ShoutoutAtlana is built on recommendations and shoutouts from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.