By: Hailey Miller, Staff Writer
This past weekend, the junior company of the world famous dance company Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Ailey II, made their sixth appearance at the Stephens Hall Theatre. It has been tradition for the company to start their national tour at Towson University.
“[Towson] feels like home,” Artistic Director Troy Powell said. “It is just an honor to come here and that this is the start of our tour.”
Creator of the company, Alvin Ailey, dreamed of touching many different people through the art of dance. He started numerous outreach programs that helped school kids become more involved in the arts. Powell became involved in one of Ailey’s programs when he was just nine years old. He then proceeded to move up the ranks until he was dancing with the first company. Powell also worked very closely with associate professor Linda-Denise Fisher-Harrell who was a principal dancer with the company.
“He is nurturing, and he is willing to share his knowledge of performing,” Fisher-Harrell said. “The company looks fabulous.”
Ailey’s outreach programs still continue to impact many young people today. During their tour, Ailey II performs free matinees for school children that is interactive and teaches them about dance. Powell also teaches master classes to all ages of the community.
“[The kids] are just so excited about dance and movement, their excitement is infinite,” Fisher-Harrell said.
This year not only did Ailey II launch their tour at Towson, it was the world premiere of one of their new ballet works, “Something Tangible,” choreographed by Ray Merser.
“We wanted to premiere it here because the theatre is so applicable to our means, it is such a nice start,” Powell said.
Days before they started their tour here, the company members were in Italy at a three-day dance festival. During the touring season they are traveling quite frequently, sometimes performing that day and traveling again that night. The members mostly travel by bus between the cities and because of that they get to know each other very well.
“The greatest part about touring is meeting all the people within the city,” Powell said. “Since we are a small company we really become a big family.”
Baltimore dancers have frequently made an appearance with both the Ailey II program and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. This year there are two company members from Baltimore; an apprentice, a senior at Towson.
Senior dance major Jessica Pinkett became an apprentice for the Ailey II Company in April of this year. Her role as an apprentice is to learn all the pieces and act as an understudy in case one of the company members gets injured.
“What I love about dancers is that they are intelligent and Jess is one of those dancers who is very intelligent, and you can see that she loves dancing,” Powell said. “She has a gift that is really special, and she has a very humble spirit that contrasts from her very powerful stage presence.”
Pinkett frequently has to travel back and forth between New York and Towson since she is still a full-time student who is getting her BFA in dance and performing arts.
“To be a Towson student and an Ailey II apprentice is a bit rough, but it’s worth it,” Pinkett said.
Fisher-Harrell has been a big influence on Pinkett’s road to Ailey. Pinkett has been taking class with Fisher-Harrell since she went to high school at Carver. Pinkett then began taking her classes when she became a student at Towson. Now that she is an apprentice, Fisher-Harrell has been working with her privately on the company’s dances.
“Ms. Linda has been a great help whether she is giving me advice, sharing information or helping me rehearse. She continues to support and motivate me in all things,” Pinkett said.
The company performed their new work “Something Tangible,” “Hissy Fitts,” by Dwight Rhoden and Ailey’s masterpiece “Revelations.” Pinkett and other apprentices had the opportunity to dance in the matinees for the school children.
“Every piece is so different, but there is power and a message to support them. The show is filled with excellence and awe,” Pinkett said.