Alvin Ailey dancers inspire younger generation
When Alvin Ailey dancer Solomon Dumas stands in front of a crowd of Boston Arts Academy students, he sees himself reflected back at him. Dumas began his dance career in the AileyCamp for underprivileged youth. Now he travels to cities like Boston to introduce a new generation of young people to the renowned Alvin Ailey technique. Along with dancers Khalia Campbell and Jessica Pinkett, Dumas recently spent three days bringing the joy of movement to Boston schools.
“When I saw the Ailey Company for the first time, I was definitely changed,” says Dumas. “Everything that I saw on the stage resonated with me. It was definitely something that was sophisticated, but I was able to understand it as a 13-year-old growing up in the quote-unquote ‘hood’ in the South Side of Chicago.”
During the master class the trio taught at Boston Arts Academy, Dumas led with instruction in the Horton Technique, a style created by Lester Horton that has become the bedrock of many Ailey dances. The technique blends whole-body movements from a diverse set of cultures emphasizing unrestricted and often dramatic expressions. Ailey’s choreography is known for pulling on dance traditions from across the African diaspora, so Dumas sprinkled in some African steps and jazz movements into his course.
The trio also gave lectures at Charlestown High School and the Blue Hill Boys & Girls Club and performed selections from the repertoire at WBUR’s CitySpace, focusing on gospel pieces. During the demonstrations, Pinkett performed “Ella” and all three dancers performed “Revelations” and “Ounce of Faith.”
The three performers were impacted by dance mentors in their youth and can now bring that same support into the Boston community.
“Mr. Ailey’s vision was that what is given to us by the people should be given back to the people,” says Pinkett. “You have endless possibilities within your community to flourish as an artist, as a person, and to open your world that much more.”
These workshops serve to whet Boston’s palate for Ailey before the annual tour lands in Boston April 30–May 1. Pinkett, Dumas and Campbell are mentally preparing for the tour, which requires incredible physical and emotional energy, they say. Campbell hopes to perform “Cry,” a piece Ailey choreographed for his mother’s birthday. The themes of strong women resonate with Campbell, who grew up with a single mother, but it’s an emotionally fraught piece for her to dance as well.
“As artists and dancers, we have to tell a story. And in order for it to resonate with the audience, we have to go to a place that we don’t want to go to. But it’s healing for us and for others, so we need to dive into those places in order to be genuine,” says Campbell. “Sometimes you need to go there for joy.”