As the University of South Carolina planned events to celebrate the 50th anniversary of desegregation at the school, USC Dance Director Susan Anderson searched for a way to help commemorate the monumental time in history. What she came up with was the perfect gift from the dance community of Columbia to the rest of the city – a show put on by Ailey II, the second company of acclaimed dancer Alvin Ailey’s main company. Although the year of observance may be nearing its end, this program is still highly anticipated and will be held at the Koger Center on November 6th at 7 p.m. While Ailey II may primarily be known as a performing company, it is just as much a group that centers itself on outreach. Each year the ensemble travels nationally and internationally – performing in different cities and reaching out to the communities. The members of the company focus on educating others about the significance of Alvin Ailey during his time through the shows they put on, as well as the dance training and community programs they provide.
“He was performing right after desegregation, at a time when you didn’t see very many African American ballet or contemporary dancers,” said Mindy Chester, USC dance conservatory instructor and assistant director to Anderson on this project. Because of this, the pieces in the program often have historical significance.
USC Assistant Professor of Contemporary Dance Thaddeus Davis has a personal connection to Alvin Ailey’s company, having done a residency at Alvin Ailey’s American Dance Center. Anderson worked with Davis to connect with the company and plan the show.
On the same day as the show, there will be three separate master classes taught by different Ailey II company members. One is solely for dance majors at the university, while the other two are open to middle and high school dancers from Richland County I schools.
Chester emphasizes how awesome of an opportunity the master classes are for all of those who get to participate. But the classes are particularly impressive for the younger students who are likely beginning to learn about Ailey from their dance instructors and now have the chance to take class from members of the company he created.
The program’s lead sponsor is Morgan Stanley.
By Deborah Swearingen