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Dancing with the scholars: Alvin Ailey’s return to Atlanta

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater returns to Atlanta this weekend bringing an amazing displaying of artistry, style and elegance to the Fox Theater. Renowned as one of the world’s most popular modern dance ensembles, Alvin Ailey brings returns just in time for Black History Month.

PHOTO COURTESY OF ALVIN AILEY  Alvin Ailey performers travel across the world, featuring  a variety of cultural, spirited performances.
PHOTO COURTESY OF ALVIN AILEY
Alvin Ailey performers travel across the world, featuring a variety of cultural, spirited performances.

Led by Art Director Robert Battle, Alvin Ailey will host six performance engagement for locals, providing a diverse array of choreography and showmanship, specifically modern dance. Jacquelin Harris, a highly decorated student artist completing her first season with the troupe believes that dancing with Alvin Ailey is the most memorable experiences she’s ever been a part of.

“Working with Ailey is just an amazing experience, overall,” Harris said. “Ailey has so much history and has created so many memorable works. You can mention Alvin Ailey to almost anyone and they instantly recognize what it represents.”

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Harris has been dancing for a majority of her life, but has on recently begun working with Alvin Ailey. Prior to working for Alvin Ailey, Harris had won a silver ARTS award as a finalist for the National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts, Harris was a semi-finalist for the Presidential Scholar in the Arts, and earned a B.F.A. from the Ailey/Fordham dance program.

PHOTO COURTESY OF ALVIN AILEY  Jacquelin Harris, graduate of the Ailey-Fordham Fine Arts Program, is new to the Alvin Ailey performance troupe this season.
PHOTO COURTESY OF ALVIN AILEY
Jacquelin Harris, graduate of the Ailey-Fordham Fine Arts Program, is new to the Alvin Ailey performance troupe this season.

“I’ve been dancing since I was two years old, but at that point I was only doing tap,” Harris said. I moved from North Carolina to New York to attend art school, and that’s when I began to take dance seriously as a career.”

Harris explained that although New York is a far cry from the much smaller Charlotte, North Carolina, the change was a great learning experience for her.

“I definitely had to get used to the city, it was a hard adjustment at first,” Harris said. “It was a good change though, because it made me bolder, and I really had to come out of my shell.”

Alvin Ailey’s performers bring a unique blend of artistry and emotion to any stage they touch, exhibiting an impressive repertoire of discipline and body control. Despite the extreme preparation and practice that comes with being in such a spirited troupe, there is still a bit of mystery to the true art of dance.

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Harris believes that although dance is regarded as one of the highest art forms, it is often overlooked, in terms of its relevance to culture. Watching an Alvin Ailey performance firsthand quickly justifies Harris’s candid take on the craft

“Dancing is definitely underappreciated, in my opinion,” Harris said. “I think the main reason is because its not as easily accessible as other fine art forms. You have to invest a lot more to enjoy the experience; for instance, you may have to pay $90 to go see a great ballet performance, but you can go see an art gallery down the street for free.”

“Dancing is definitely underappreciated, in my opinion. I think the main reason is because its not as easily accessible as other fine art forms. You have to invest a lot more to enjoy the experience; for instance, you may have to invest $90 to go see a great ballet performance, but you can go see an art gallery down the street for free.”

Although dance is a largely overlooked artform in Harris’ opinion, she believes that Alvin Ailey makes the experience more accessible.

“Ailey does a lot to bring the culture to people. The shows they have are all so intricate and planned out, with amazing choreography,” Harris said. “Many of the shows also have a deeper meaning that viewers can take away, like the ‘Revelations’ show. It’s about the Baptist experience, but it speaks to finding inspiration and hope. I believe that we as dancers play an active role in providing that experience to viewers.”

Harris also cited house and hip-hop style dancing as her favorite.

“I enjoy all forms, like African, classical modern, and ballet, but hip-hop is definitely my favorite because of the high energy, the freedom, and the up tempo production.”

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