In 1979, a young New York City boy met Alvin Ailey at his public elementary school during a dance workshop; unbeknownst to him it was an audition. Then nine-year-old Troy Powell had no idea who Mr. Ailey was and no formal dance training, although he came from a large African American family where dance was interwoven into their everyday home life. "I was handpicked to join the first children's program at The Ailey School, and the experience made a huge impact and changed my life," says Powell, who continued to climb the ranks through the School's professional division, Ailey II, and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. He succeeded Sylvia Waters in 2012 as Ailey II's Artistic Director.
Ana Marie Forsythe
A dancer discovers the satisfactions of learning the famously demanding technique. Ana Marie Forsythe's eyes twinkle, and a smile plays at the corners of her mouth as she welcomes the 40-plus teachers who are enrolled for her two-week-long Horton teacher-training workshop at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater studios in New York City - plus me, a dancer and writer, taking part for the day.
Ana Marie Forsythe still remembers her first Horton technique class, in the late 1950s at the Newark Ballet Academy. Former Horton dancer Joyce Trisler came, at Fred Danieli's invitation, to teach class to his students, who Danieli felt needed to be more versatile dancers.
Amid the flourishing 1930s American modern dance scene, Lester Horton began shaping a technique that would serve as the foundation for much of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater repertoire. "Alvin was never shy in saying that Horton was most influential to his choreography," says Ana Marie Forsythe, chair of the Horton department at The Ailey School.
I cannot tell you how immensely excited I was about starting this series. I got the idea after I interviewed Ms. Forsythe for Dance Magazine's Teachers Wisdom section. Since we both work at The Ailey School we see each other almost daily but this was the first time that we had opportunity (and cause) to sit and talk about the work.
Today the contemporary dance family tree has all kinds of offshoots, but its base includes four modern dance branches: the techniques created by Martha Graham, Jose Limon, Lester Horton and Merce Cunningham.
You see it everywhere in contemorary and modern choreography. It's the "wow" step that takes you from standing to the floor with just a simple bend of the knees: the hinge.
A group of Ailey students clad in the black-on-black modern dress code moves like a well-oiled machine through Lester Horton's Fortification #1.
The Lester Horton Pedagogy Workshop, offered through The Ailey School, is the perfect urban retreat for teachers seeking immersion in Horton technique.
The Ailey School's demonstration of Horton Technique with Ana Marie Forsythe and Milton Myers was named Editors' Choice for the July Dance Teacher Video of the Month.