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Robert Abrams
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IS 90
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CAS/AileyCamp - Diversity - An Evening of Dance, Music and Spoken Word

by Robert Abrams
August 20, 2003
IS 90
details coming soon

Featured Dance Company:

Alvin Ailey Dance Theater
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
405 West 55th Street
New York, NY 10019
(212) 405-9000

CAS/AileyCamp - Diversity - An Evening of Dance, Music and Spoken Word

Nasha Thomas-Schmitt, National Director
Keith Lewis, Director
Rodni Williams, Associate Director
Natasha DeVaughn, Terence Lake, Eboni K. Marshall, Jamie Philbert, Carmen L. Valcarcel, Julio Medina, Aracelis Girmay, Instructors
Kathleen Isaac, Robert Tracy, Guest Artists
Kikaury Acosta, Yalidy Matos, Adamma Haith, Interns
Nicaise Folley Don-Makosso, Tirso Pelaez, Technical Crew
Jodi-Ann McBean, Jill Vallery, Kute O. Tonge, Datjwan Marquette Woodland, Group Leaders
James Cherry, Yury Gabay, Chris Tunkel, Accompanists
Indiana Almanzar, Reggie Bannerman, Shakera Frazier, New York Times Summer Youth Employees
Anita Elem, Torey Nelson, Tiffany Nyreece Gilbert, Volunteers

Judith Jamison, Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation Artistic Director and inspiration for countless dancers

Philip Coltoff, Children's Aid Society (CAS) Chief Executive Officer

Robert Abrams
August 20, 2003

The opening number of CAS/AileyCamp 2003 filled the stage and the aisles of IS 90's auditorium. Almost 100 kids danced to the infectious rhythms of the music. Their shoulders were shaking. Their arms were pumping in African derived devotional dance. Wave after wave of dancers moved to take their place on the stage, move and move on for the next group.

The opening number well represented what was to come: good choreographic choices that accomodated a very large ensemble on a relatively small stage, and implementation of that choreography that was passionate, poised and poised for further growth.

This program tries to teach students respect, responsibility and positive relationships through the medium of dance as a natural complement to the usual three "Rs". The staff wants their students to have the confidence to enter new situations and succeed. The students clearly had confidence in abundance.

The Ailey Camps were started by Alvin Ailey himself. He would no doubt be proud of the collective support effort it took to bring these students as far as they have come. Not even the largest blackout in US history could stop them. (The show was originally scheduled for August 14.)

The show presented a wide range of dance styles that are characteristic of Ailey. The students poured their energy into modern, ballet, African, stepping, hip-hop and spoken word performances. To paraphrase one of the spoken word performances, their ain't no mountain they couldn't climb.

The dancers had attitude to spare, but just as importantly, they showed that they had payed attention to technique too. They looked like they were making good progress on their isolations. They demonstrated an ability to dance with constant and clearly delineated motion. They had good timing to both recorded music and live drumming, and good stage presence. The dancers in the ballet numbers presented graceful arms and stable partnering. There were more than a few group numbers where the students worked well as an ensemble. Their accomplishments in these respects are all the more admirable when you realize that most of the students started the six week program with no prior formal dance training.

The CAS/AileyCamp tries to get the students to think as well as move. For instance, the students presented scenes on inter-racial dating, diversity and gender stereotypes. In the latter, two boys try to join a ballet class only to have the girls try to push them out of their domain. The boys win the girls over in the end with persistence and skillful jumps. Speaking of boys taking dance, AileyCamp had several boys who showed real promise, which is consistent with Ailey's general reputation for its strong male dancers. The students also declaimed a strong sense of self and place in their spoken word performances.

There were many excellent performances, but the one that brought down the house was "Phunktabulous" with choreography by Eboni K. Marshall and music by Earth Wind & Fire and Cool Cal. This was an athletic routine with an updated 70s groove and glow in the dark bracelets. Not to mention attitude to spare (I said that already, didn't I? They had enough attitude to say it twice.). They turned up the heat in a hot auditorium.

The energetic finale once again filled the room with all of the dancers. They put everything they had into getting down. Watching these students, it was clear why dance equals joy. So clear, in fact, that I was inspired to follow their example and go out dancing afterwards.

AileyCamp II will be starting soon, so there are more opportunities to dance. To find out more about opportunities with the Children's Aid Society and Ailey, go to www.childrensaidsociety.org and www.alvinailey.org.

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