Alvin Ailey dancers bring master class to Boston Arts Academy
The dance studio at the Boston Arts Academy’s temporary home in Dorchester radiated with energy. A group of dedicated student dancers were assembled for a Jan. 17 master class taught by Samantha Figgins, Chalvar Monteiro and Solomon Dumas of Alvin Ailey Dance Theater.
“Can you play ‘Samba Magic’?” Monteiro asked Figgins. “And turn it up, please.” While the Basement Jaxx music blasted through the speakers, Monteiro led the high schoolers through a series of joyful combinations. Figgins and Dumas danced along, demonstrating the organic technique Ailey is known for. Student dancers on the sidelines busted their own moves while waiting their turn to show off their Ailey-inspired skills. After the class, the students had an opportunity to chat with the dancers, getting advice about colleges, career paths and training schedules. That one-on-one access to the professionals left the students beaming with excitement.
Every year Alvin Ailey dancers contribute to the Boston community by conducting workshops and master classes in Boston Public Schools. 2019 is the 60th anniversary of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the group is celebrating with a year of special events and community activities.
Both Monteiro and Dumas also participated in the Ailey company’s outreach in Boston last year. For Dumas, these programs are especially close to the heart. “I love doing outreach, because I’m a product of that,” he says. A Chicago native, Dumas got his start in AileyCamp, another youth-oriented program sponsored by the dance company. That was the first time he realized professional dance was a career avenue for people of color. “There are so many parts of African American culture that can be performed and preserved on stage,” he says.
Not all of the outreach comes in master class form; Figgins, Monteiro and Dumas will also conduct workshops with kids who have no prior dance experience, and movement classes for students with disabilities. All in all, their Boston visit will include sessions at Boston Arts Academy, the Kennedy Day School, the Boston Renaissance School and the Richard J. Murphy School. The Ailey company’s North American tour will touch down in Boston in May.
Several Boston Arts Academy alumni have graduated on to the Alvin Ailey cast over the years. William McLaughlin, Boston Arts Academy’s dance department chair, says it makes a big impact for students to see the possibilities available to them. “It’s important for developing artists to see themselves in other artists that are successful,” he says, “whether that’s in terms of race, socioeconomic status or gender identity.”