Ailey’s World: Ready, Set, Dance

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[Music: Dance]


Watching the Samba-Afro-Brazilian dance class with absolute awe, I could never tell where each movement of the body would take me.

The Alvin Ailey Dance Theater (AADT) located at 405 West 55th Street, offers many types of dancing opportunities from beginners to advance students to learn and perfect these skills and more. At an affordable price, one can get a well-balanced workout at The Ailey Extension, a program for busy people.

The experience can be therapeutic, diminishing the stress of the urban life-style and dancers move to the rhythm and vibe of the music. The courses also unite dancers of different cultures and experiences.

With 12 widely-spaced studios, AADT is considered one of the largest dancing schools in the US. At a recent session, feet and arms moved vigorously and gracefully to the music.

Alvin Ailey, legendary founder of AADT,  was born on January 5th, 1931 in Rogers, Texas. Ailey, along with other African-American dancers began to spread their skills in 1958. More than 40 years later, Ailey’s legacy continues to grow with beneficiaries of his skills and teachings from all over the world—Ailey himself died in 1989.

Judith Jamison has been the torchbearer—Ailey had once chosen her to be the heir to AADT. Jamison is a choreographer for many artistic dance works that she crafted throughout the years. In 2004, AADT moved to the 55th street corner, attracting people from all ages and backgrounds.

In 2005, The Ailey Extension began, with leader, Yvette Campbell guiding students of all dance levels to reach a higher point. “Dance is for everyone,” she said, during a recent conversation. “From physicists, mothers, men, women, from ages 16-85,” all are welcome, she added. “I want The Ailey Extension to be the place to come to in the city,” Campbell reiterated. She recruits dedicated and experienced dance teachers that inspire students.

“They have to be committed to teaching. Basically I look for teachers with their own offerings,” noted Campbell. With about 20 people per class, they are almost always prepared to take on a new meaning to art through the beat of the music, exposed through the body’s expressions.

“There are performances at City Center during the winter; they are performed by the First Company, a group that tours the world in the larger cities. The Second Company performs in smaller venues, bringing together the best dancing students,” she added.

Campbell was a ballet dancer at the age of six; 11 years later, she began to teach dance to young kids.
As for Brazilian dancing, Quenia Ribeiro, who grew up dancing in Rio de Janeiro, provides the answer. At age 26, she began to dance Capoeira, Brazilian Martial Arts form.

Living in New York for 12 years, she has been teaching at The Ailey Extension for two and a half years. “I try to bring a different type of traditional dance in class. I try to bring the Carnivals that we have in the streets of Rio to the studios,” she recalled.

Ribeiro demonstrates African dance moves and simple samba moves—she takes the time to provide her students the attention they need. With three drummers, the sounds vibrate through dancers, giving them a sense of urge and passion in their moves.

Ribeiro wants to widen the appeal of Brazilian styles throughout the country.
From the beginnings in Texas, his birthplace, Ailey would marvel today at the heights achieved by his creation.

The Alvin Ailey Dance Theater is located on 405 W. 55th Street, New York, NY 10019.  (212) 405-9000


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