Courtesy of Eduardo Patino
They may be the junior company to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, but the cast and crew of Ailey II don’t like to think of themselves that way. Instead, they hope to be respected as first-class dancers in their own right.
Ailey II is set to perform in at the Capitol Theatre at 77 S. High St. on Friday at 8 p.m.
Presented by the Columbus Association for the Performing Arts (CAPA), Ailey II features young dancers (this year’s crew ranges from 18 to 23 years old) who work to tell the classic stories of the company in a new way.
Daphne Lee, a first-year dancer in the company, said audiences should expect the standards of Alvin Ailey performances, such as elongated lines and spiritual themes, but with a twist. With three new choreographers added each year, the stories can vary depending on what they want to showcase.
Alvin Ailey was an American choreographer who created the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1958 “to carry out his vision of a company dedicated to enriching the American modern dance heritage and preserving the uniqueness of the African-American cultural experience,” according to the company’s website.
Ailey “drew upon his ‘blood memories’ of Texas, the blues, spirituals and gospel as inspiration,” the website says, “which resulted in the creation of his most popular and critically acclaimed work, ‘Revelations.'”
Lee said it’s hard to believe she’s dancing in the program she first saw and was inspired by when she was about 10 years old.
“I remember specifically the last piece, ‘Revelations,’ and I remember all the ladies and their yellow fans and their yellow dresses and their gray stools,” she said. “And I remember I came out of the theater really sad because I wanted actually to stand on the stools.”
Lee joked she’s been dancing since before she was born, considering her mother was also a dancer, but said she never wanted to pursue dancing as a career. Instead she had plans to become a doctor, but she couldn’t give up dance completely.
“I continued to dance because I enjoyed it and I didn’t want to go to the gym – that was my way of staying in shape,” she said. “I wanted to go to school and dance at the same time, but I really wanted to focus on medicine.”
It wasn’t until she auditioned for dance schools three-and-a-half years ago that she decided she wanted to make dancing her career.
Lee isn’t the only new face in Ailey II – this year is also the first year for artistic director Troy Powell. Lee said Powell “knows exactly what he’s doing” and has been working to promote the company.
Rich Corsi, programming director for CAPA, said Ailey II has been in CAPA’s rotation since 2008.
“We started doing more dance back in 2008 because of the feedback we got from patrons. They wanted to see more dance, so we listened and booked it. Ticket sales have proven it to be a smart choice,” he said in an email, adding that the show typically sells out.
This year is no exception – both student discounted tickets from the Ohio Union and PNC Arts Alive, as well as full-price tickets have sold out, according to their websites.
Adam Houston, a third-year in dance, said he’s seen a performance by the Alvin Ailey group before.
“The dancing was just very fierce and everything about it, like the staging, the costumes. It was just a very fun performance overall,” he said.
Although Houston said he enjoyed the past performance, he’s not sure he would want to be a part of the company.
“As much as I would like to dance like that, my style is not super what they do,” he said, adding his style is more contemporary, while the company’s is spiritual-based.
Regardless of the style, the 12 dancers try to embrace their youth as a positive rather than focus on their lack of experience, Lee said.
“Because we’re a younger company the movements are so much more energetic. You can see the differences in the first company and second, and I think first company is very mature,” she said.
Lee said even though she’s been performing the same pieces for several months, she still tries to find something new to perfect.
“The moment you find nothing new to explore in the piece then you know it’s your time to quit,” she said.