Becoming a Warrior with Andrew Burnell
I always wanted to take gymnastics. My sister took gymnastics lessons when we were younger, and the only Olympic events I ever watched on TV were gymnastics. My mom told me I would break my leg tumbling and never be able to dance again, so I never got to try handsprings and all that cool stuff.
In April, my partner La Quinn and I were asked to perform with Daft Concept at an event. Daft Concept, directed by Amanda Drawdy (a former international ballerina with more than 20 years of performing experience), is a hot and high-powered dance performance company. La Quinn and I were excited about the opportunity. I met Amanda’s boyfriend—and other half of my favorite power couple—Andrew Burnell, someone I had known of for a while, but had yet to meet in person.
“I’m so sad I missed your tumbling workshop at Dancefx a month or two ago,” I told Andrew after he introduced himself. “I’ve always wanted to learn how to tumble.”
“I can teach you,” Andrew said. Which is how I ended up spending an afternoon with him and three of his advanced tumblers at Only Imagine in Goose Creek.
These eleven-year-old girls kicked my ass. Without thinking twice, they would run into a series of aerials, handsprings, and God knows what else.
I stuck with cartwheels.
After my introductory session, I was hooked. I signed up to train one-on-one with Andrew twice a week, and little did I know that tumbling training would equal all kinds of adventures like…well, let me just illustrate a few of my favorites.
When you and I go to a playground, we see a playground. Metal bars. Swings. Slides. Fun stuff.
When Andrew Burnell goes to a playground, it suddenly becomes the set of American Ninja Warrior.
Instead of sitting in a swing to enjoy a swing set, YOU become the swing and have to swing from bar to bar.
A picnic table stops being a shady spot to enjoy a glass of lemonade after some hardcore playing. It becomes a surface on which to do handstands and off of which to cartwheel.
The railing surrounding the playground is not meant to keep children from wandering into the street. It is a surface over which to vault yourself. Multiple times. I am not so successful at that part and have bruises all over my legs and arms to prove just how many times I haven’t exactly made it over the railing.
Andrew, who I believe to be a reincarnation of Mr. T or Samuel L. Jackson, peppers training sessions with fun axioms like “The danger is real, but fear is a choice,” and “Treat a child like a child, and he will remain such. Treat a child like a warrior, and one day, he will become a warrior.”
I can’t get away with much when I train with Andrew. I get this a lot:
“Georgia. That was terrible. Ten push-ups and do it again.”
It sounds crazy that I pay this man to yell at me and force me to do terrifying and painful things, like jumping off of high surfaces and doing backbends with 25-pound weights on my shins, but it feels good.
Like I’m really accomplishing something. We’ve been training together for more than two months now, and I can see a huge difference. I’m stronger. I’m more fearless. I feel tougher. Even though we’re only at the very beginning basics of tumbling (cartwheels, forward and back rolls, handstands, walkovers), I can tell I’m building a strong foundation and one day will be able to, like Andrew, effortlessly flip off of a picnic table.
Until that day though, I’ll stick with forward rolls on the ground.
Andrew Burnell started tumbling when he was 6 years old andm since then, has trained with gymnasts, cheerleaders, acrobats, and street performers. He is a former high-level tumbler who has been performing professionally as an acrobat for three years. He is the director of acrobatics at Only Imagine dance studio, lead acrobat and stunt coordinator of the supercrew Daft Concept, and the tumbling instructor for Summerville Dance Academy. Burnell is also a personal trainer and owns a company called Rebound that provides health-related services from nutrition to personal training. He is also trained in Parkour and free running and is in the process of writing three novels.
He is always available for privates and personal training sessions, and can be found on Instagram @SoFarSoFly or on Facebook.