By Lil Nickelson
On Tuesday, August 1st, 2023, at 6 pm sharp LaSharn Cooper-Patt, Recreation Supervisor of the Pelham Fritz Recreation Center.
She walked onto the stage of the Richard Rodgers Amphitheater to greet the audience assembled at 6 pm that evening. A wonderful program was about to take place titled Dance in Marcus Garvey Park with Ailey which was co-presented by Ailey Extension and the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation. She introduced Maguette Camara, who spend the next hour teaching audience members a free West African dance class.
Two drummers immersed the amphitheater with the sound of West African music and culture while Maguette Camara expertly guided participants willing to get upfront and learn a West African dance step by step. This class was attended by people of all ages and all levels of dance experience. Take me for example I had on a protective boot to shield my injured Achilles tendon in my right boot, but my arms and left leg were grooving to prove that everyone can dance with Ailey. The dance lesson ended with everyone on the floor forming a circle and one by one dancers went to the center and busted a move or two to the glee of everyone in attendance, with the youth and elders getting the most applause.
By 7 pm Ailey II performers took to the stage. Kicking off its 50th anniversary season, Ailey II came to Harlem for an evening of electrifying dance. The Ailey II company is comprised of the most promising early-career dance talent in the country, and they are led by Artistic Director Francesca Harper. Ailey II is renowned for its electrifying performances, rigorous touring schedule, and community programs. This evening Ailey II performed a dynamic repertory featuring the incredible energy of an excerpt of William Forsythe’s Enemy in the Figure, an excerpt from Alvin Ailey’s lyrical ballet The Lark Ascending featured Kali Marie Oliver and Andrew Bryant, Robert Battle’s percussive Takademe featuring Maggy van den Heuvel, and the company performing Harper’s galactical Freedom Series.
Founded in 1974 as the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble, the Ailey II company embodies
Alvin Ailey’s pioneering mission is to establish an extended cultural community that provides dance performances, training, and community programs for all people. Sylvia Waters was selected by Mr. Ailey to be its founding Artistic Director, serving in that role for the Company’s first 38 seasons. She helped Ailey II to flourish into one of the most popular modern dance companies, combining a rigorous touring schedule with extensive community outreach programs. Ailey II is universally renowned for merging the spirit and energy of the country’s best early-career dance talent with the passion and creative vision of today’s most outstanding and emerging choreographers.
In September 2021, Francesca Harper stepped into the role of Artistic Director of Ailey II. Ms. Harper – who trained at The Ailey School and who has choreographed for both Ailey companies – brings fresh perspectives to Mr. Ailey’s legacy while nurturing new creative voices and propelling the company forward.
For those in the Harlem community that can’t afford to purchase tickets to see Alvin Ailey at City Center each holiday season watching these free performances and getting a chance to learn a West African dance class for free is a priceless opportunity you shouldn’t miss.
Ailey Moves NYC! is thrilled to bring dance to our fellow New Yorkers throughout the city as a summer celebration of dance featuring free activities for all ages across the five boroughs including performances by Ailey II, dance classes, and workshops led by Ailey’s Arts In Education, Ailey Extension teachers and musicians, and instructors from The Ailey School. Ailey. This summer’s program is brought to you by Con Edison’s Arts Al Fresco Series, The Rockefeller Foundation, and an anonymous donor.
Photo credits: 1-5) Rudy Collins
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