"There's danger in the air, and the character that I portray is supposed to resemble hope at the highest power," said Jeroboam Bozeman, a member of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, about his role in "Ode." In this powerful new dance created by Jamar Roberts for the company's season at City Center (through Jan. 5), the dancers explore the effects of gun violence to a jazz score by the pianist Don Pullen. In this solo, Mr. Bozeman said he sees himself "kind of like a high priestess," he said. "Someone who oversees, but also has this sense of wisdom. I think about Trayvon Martin. I think about Philando Castile. I think about Sandra Bland. I think about Eric Garner. These are people we lost to police brutality." He admires how Mr. Roberts created such a multilayered, poetic dance about such a brutal subject.
Jacqueline Green was a shy 13-year-old when her mother, considering possible schools in Baltimore, observed two qualities that her daughter possessed. "You're the artsy child," Ms. Green recalled her saying. "You're flexible." Soon after, Ms. Green found herself at a dance audition for Baltimore School for the Arts. It was not only her first audition, it was also her first ballet class. "I had on Payless tights and shoes, and I don't know where we found a leotard," Ms. Green said. "I had my hair slicked back in this bun and I thought: 'People actually do this? Holding our arms out is tiring.'"
It's every young dancer's fantasy: Attend a summer intensive, dazzle the artistic staff with your flawless technique, land a company contract, and grand-jets into the sunset. If only it were that simple, right?... We caught up with six pros who followed the summer-intensive-to-dream-job route to get the inside scoop on how to give yourself a fighting chance at that coveted end-of-summer offer. For Jamaris Mitchell, who's in her first season with Ailey II, attending the company's summer intensive made all the difference.
Why do you dance? Because you live it? To compete, to perform, to express yourself? In the Afro-Cuban folkloric tradition, dance is so deeply entwined with music, storytelling, and religion that almost everyone dances, and there's almost always a reason to be dancing. "In life, there are so many celebrations to dance about," says Noibis Licea, an NYC-based dancer and choreographer from Bayamo, Cuba, who graduated from the National School of Arts in Havana.
Every so often a great dancer transcends her own brilliance, somehow expanding its outer limit. Last week at City Center, Linda Celeste Sims, a member of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater for 24 years, did just that in a rapturous performance of Ailey's 1971 "Cry," a 16-minute solo dedicated "to all black women everywhere - especially our mothers." This season Ms. Sims, 43, danced the work for the first time as a mother - she gave birth to her first child, Ellington, in May - and something shifted.
Jacqueline Green was a shy 13-year-old when her mother, considering possible schools in Baltimore, observed two qualities that her daughter possessed. “You’re the artsy child,” Ms. Green recalled her saying. “You’re flexible.” Soon after, Ms. Green found herself at a dance audition for Baltimore School for the Arts. It was not only her first audition, it was also her first ballet class. “I had on Payless tights and shoes, and I don’t know where we found a leotard,” Ms. Green said. “I had my hair slicked back in this bun and I thought: ‘People actually do this? Holding your arms out is tiring.’”
Khalia Campbell: Emotions flood through Khalia Campbell's every move. As "the umbrella woman" in Ailey's Revelations, her torso and arms ripple with joy. As a soloist in Darrell Grand Moultrie's Ounce of Faith, she turns heads with dancing that's smooth and silky, yet sharp and purposeful.
Learning Versatility, Summer by Summer: Courtney Celeste Spears. When Courtney Celeste Spears was young, she'd ask her family to skip the Christmas presents: "Just help me go to this intensive," she'd say.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Samantha Figgins will never forget the first time she danced Revelations wearing the small devices held in place by a wire loop over each ear. "I thought they changed the music," Figgins recalls, laughing. All of a sudden, she could make out individual voices in the opening choral number "I Been Buked." When she found herself on the left side of the first formation, she could hear her fellow dancers breathe, and during "Wade in the Water," she discovered a bass line that she never knew was there.
Masazumi Chaya, a beloved animating spirit of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre since 1972, first decided to retire in 1986. But Ailey asked him to stay on as an assistant to the rehearsal director, and so Chaya stayed, and stayed - through Ailey's death, two changeovers of artistic director, and several generations of dancers. Now, as Chaya finally follows through on his retirement plan, the company honors its associate artistic director with a tribute evening on Dec. 22, part of its five-week season at City Center.