Alvin Ailey Principal Dancer Kirven James Boyd. (Photo courtesy of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater)
|Judith Jamison is the artistic director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. (Photo courtesy of Andrew Eccles)
Loud music is blaring from the rooms at the Jeannette Neill Dance Studio near North Station. Lithe adolescents run into class and take their places just in time for the dance instructor to yell 5, 6, and 7, 8.
The studio, founded in 1979 by Jeannette Neill is a training ground for aspiring dancers.
Neill is an internationally respected educator, dancer and choreographer whose work has taken her around the world. She’s performed with The Milan Opera Company in Palermo, Italy, Danschuset in Goteborg, Sweden, the Jazz/Tap Festival in Monterey, Mexico, the AIC Studio in Tokyo, Japan and Broadway Dance Center in New York City.
Neill also co-founded Boston Youth Moves (BYM), a nonprofit organization and pre-professional dance program.
“BYM was started so that no child would be turned away,” said Neill. “Some parents can’t afford to send their kids to the studio. We are constantly raising funds to provide financial aid to the students. There’s arts education for teens 13-19.”
Each year, Neill holds a fundraiser “Swellegance” to help support BYM initiatives.
“It’s our eleventh yearly gala fundraiser,” Neill says. “We do it to help donors and other supporters of BYM feel connected. There will be great music, dance, food … great everything!”
The studio is buzzing with excitement because one of BYM’s graduates Kirven Boyd — a principal dancer at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater — is heavily involved in this year’s “Swellegance.”
Ten Ailey dancers will perform their own original choreography in “A Spark Ignites: A Celebration in Dance” as well as excerpts from Ailey repertoire. During the gala, Judith Jamison will be presented with the Boston Youth Moves Lifetime Achievement award for her work as a dancer and as the artistic director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
“This fundraiser was my idea,” Boyd said. “I thought it would be good for BYM to do something this big. They wanted to honor Ms. Jamison and what better time to do it than now? I thought it would be great for these two parts of my life to come together to celebrate Ms. Jamison and the BYM program.”
A brilliant dancer, Boyd can be seen leaping though the air in pictures advertising upcoming Ailey performances. In some instances, it seems as if Boyd is reaching for the heavens with his impossibly long arms outstretched. When he was a child, he saw an Alvin Ailey performance that changed his life. Now, his performances are changing other’s lives.
“Being in Ailey was a life dream of mine so every chance I get to dance in this company is special to me,” Boyd explained. “It keeps me interested and there’s always something to learn and always some other part of yourself that you discover.
“I’ve been blessed to dance roles that were danced by some of the dancers that I looked up to as a young dancer,” he added. “I can only hope that I am an inspiration to young artists and that there’s someone following their dreams because of what I give of myself.”
The mission of BYM is to encourage young people through training in the art of dance, to explore their limitless potential for artistic expression and personal success. If Boyd is any indication, then BYM is doing what it’s supposed to do.
“BYM helped me develop so many aspects of myself both in dance and in everyday life,” Boyd said. “I learned so much about the importance of keeping an open mind and learning new things in dance as well as the importance of being a great person. They groomed me to be fearless and humble at the same time and I think that combination has helped me a great deal in my career.”
Neill agrees. She always wanted to be a dancer and believes that the arts help people become more of who they are.
“Art transforms us,” said Neill. “I’ve seen how dancing has helped build character, confidence and self awareness in young people. If you open a door for a young person, they are not afraid to go through the next one. It’s quite beautiful to watch them blossom. There’s so much in the world that separates us and it’s important to balance it out … the humanness. That’s why people come here. Dance brings people together.”
Both performances of A Spark Ignites: A Celebration in Dance will be at the Tsai Performance Center. For tickets to the concert on Friday, June 3 or tickets to the Swellegance Gala on June 4, call the Box Office at 617-353-8725.
Judith Jamison is retiring this summer after 22 years as artistic director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Under her leadership, the group became what many consider the world's most successful modern-dance troupe.
In 1965 Ailey discovered the Philadelphia born-and-raised dancer and invited her to join his company. After her riveting performance of "Cry," a solo Ailey created for her, Jamison soared to international fame. She left the Ailey Company in 1980 to dance on Broadway and in 1983 returned to choreograph for Ailey. More »
While he was a student at the Boston Arts Academy, Kirven J. Boyd frequently replayed a video of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performing "For ‘Bird'- With Love," a dance suite dedicated to alto saxophonist Charlie Parker.
"One section, danced to Dizzy Gillespie's ‘A Night in Tunisia,' is a fun number that turns the stage into a club scene," Boyd told the Banner during a phone interview. "The trumpet player's part is danced by Desmond Richardson. Watching him, I was amazed that people could move like that. Now I do that role." More »
Before they even reached the stage on Saturday night at the Opera House in Boston, the Balé Folclórico da Bahia held the audience in thrall. The lights went down, plunging the ornately gilded theater into darkness, and the sound of ocean waves and birdsong rose accompanied by human voices in a slow, rhythmic chant. As if lit by candles, men and women in white turbans and robes appeared in the center aisles, including a priestly figure in a headdress holding a long staff. They immersed the audience in their mesmerizing voices, before processing onto the stage for a suite of dances entitled "Sacred Heritage." More »