Moment Of Clarity

LESSONS LEARNED: Anthony Burrell

“From the ashes of devastation and confusion come the most beautiful and sought after gifts: compassion, forgiveness, hope, and peace. ~Jinnie Cristerna, LCSW, CHt


When we think of pain and heartache, our minds typically turn to relationships, careers, or dreams and how we fell short of achieving our goal of happiness. In the case of dancer and choreographer Anthony Burrell, he managed to turn his heartache and pain into triumphs that helped him find his voice and passion.

Burrell has been featured on Lifetime’s hit reality shows, Raising Asia and Dance Moms as the choreographer, as well as season 7 of So You Think You Can Dance?. He has also danced with mega stars like Beyonce, Mariah Carey, Katy Perry, and Rihanna.

Recently, I had an opportunity to talk with Burrell as he shared the real story behind his passion and the lessons he learned from the challenges he encountered in his life.


From the time he was 8 until he was 12, Burrell was molested by a family friend who was also a neighbor. While he is unable to recall how it started, he does remember being confused and afraid.

His perpetrator would walk him by the police station and threaten to tell on him because he was the bad guy, the monster. He was afraid to tell people because he thought he would go to jail. Burrell finally opened up to his mother when he was 21. His shock is that most parents don’t know what is really going on with their children.

Upon further discussion, he disclosed that not only was he molested, but so were his mother and her sisters.


When he was 12, Burrell returned to live with his mother. Although she was using drugs long before he moved back home with her, seeing her get high is an image that forever remains engrained in his mind.

One day, Burrell found his mother smoking crack and when he did, he saw a ghost, a spirit. “It wasn’t her,” he said. “It was the crack.”

Today, his mother is recovering and has been clean for some time now. They have a very strong relationship and she has become his ‘shero.’


Burrell dances to release the pain and anger from childhood. As he dances, he finds solace, healing, compassion, and forgiveness. What we see onstage is the beauty of his pain transformed into art and passion for life. When he dances, Burrell is free and in that moment, he is love.

Anthony Burrell shares his LESSONS LEARNED:

1)  Stop second-guessing your heart and listen to the first feeling.

2) God is within. It’s up to us to realize that “God-like” power and make it work for our highest good.

3) There is no other option than to be successful.

4) Never take your talent for granted.

Thank you Anthony, for trusting me with your story. As always, I thank you for sharing and we all wish you pleasant journeys.

You can listen to a portion of Anthony Burrell’s powerful interview here (warning, some explicit language). If you would like to learn more about Anthony, you can visit his web site by clicking here.

Jinnie Cristerna, LCSW

Do you have a question for our “Moment of Clarity” JET Therapist, Jinnie? Email us at We’ll be sure to keep it anonymous and confidential. 

Jinnie Cristerna, affectionately known as “The High Achievers Therapist”, works with talented people to help them release emotional pain and psychological roadblocks so they can achieve their personal and professional goals. Specializing in psychotherapy, heart centered hypnotherapy, vibrational energy, meditation, and personality development, Jinnie has a nearly 90 percent success rate with her clients.  Sign up for Jinnie’s High Achiever newsletter here or join her on Facebook and Twitter!