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AileyCamp – Nationally Acclaimed Free Summer Program – Transforms Inner-City Youth Through Dance, Stretching Their Minds, Bodies and Spirits

This summer, AileyCamp will provide 1,000 inner-city students in 10 cities nationwide a safe space to be themselves and explore their creativity during a six-week life-changing program. Founded by Alvin Ailey and Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey in 1989, this innovative full-scholarship day camp uses dance as a vehicle for developing self-esteem, self-discipline, creative expression, and critical-thinking skills. Driven by Alvin Ailey’s mission to bring dance to everybody, AileyCamp continues Ailey’s legacy inspiring students in Atlanta, GABaltimore, MD;Berkeley/Oakland, CAChicago, ILKansas City, MO; Kansas City, KSMiami, FLNewark, NJ; New York, NY; and Seattle, WA.

The nationally acclaimed summer program provides classes in dance techniques such as ballet, Horton-based modern, jazz, tap and West African dance. Personal development and creative communication classes will teach campers how to express themselves in a positive way and tackle challenging subjects that include decision-making, peer-pressure, conflict resolution, and self-awareness. Each day begins with reciting daily affirmations such as “I will pay attention with my mind, body, and spirit,” and “I will not use the word ‘can’t’ to define my possibilities,” to guide AileyCampers on a path to becoming confident, productive, and motivated individuals. Camp tuition, uniforms, dance attire, field trips, breakfast and lunch are provided to each student free of charge. 

“Your imagination costs you nothing, but can cost you everything if you don’t use it,” says Artistic Director Robert Battle. “Alvin Ailey was dedicated to using the power of dance to enrich and positively alter the lives of underserved youth. Mr. Ailey once said, ‘The creative process is not controlled by a switch you can simply turn on or off; it is with you all the time.’ Through the power of dance, writing, and visual arts, AileyCampers across the nation will be given the tools to unleash their imagination and open the door to endless possibilities.” 

Although AileyCamp is not meant to be a training ground for professional dancers, some students are awarded scholarships for further study at The Ailey School or pursue training at other accredited dance schools and have later performed with professional dance companies. In May 2016, Solomon Dumas became the first former AileyCamper to join Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Dumas attended AileyCamp Chicago, was on scholarship at The Ailey School, danced as a member of Ailey II, and taught at Ailey Extension before joining the Company. Last month, select AileyCamp Newark and New York campers were invited to participate in a special tribute ballet at Lincoln Center launching The Ailey School’s 50th Anniversary celebration.  The piece d’occasion, entitled Testimony,  followed a young boy from an Arts In Education program to the Company, which parallels the inspiring journeys of Dumas and Ailey II Artistic Director Troy Powell – who was discovered by Mr. Ailey at an outreach activity at age 9 and awarded a scholarship to The Ailey School, before dancing with both companies and later leading the junior company.

“AileyCamp gives students an opportunity to dream big and take steps towards a successful future,” says Nasha ThomasNational Director of AileyCamp/Arts In Education Spokesperson & Master Teacher. “The program is aimed at using dance in an atmosphere of warmth, respect and trust to develop self-confidence, critical thinking, and communication skills – tools to success. We are teaching these students anything is possible if you believe in yourself. As I visit the camps throughout the summer, I am inspired by the nearly 1,000 students I meet and their transformation from week one to the conclusion of camp.”

All AileyCamps culminate with a final performance for family, friends and community leaders where campers showcase their hard work in an original production of specially choreographed dances, poetry readings and theatrical improvisations. All ten cities will celebrate Imagination in their final performances, the theme guiding the AileyCamp curriculum this year. Campers will perform an excerpt inspired by Donald Byrd’s Shards, a skillfully crafted ballet showcasing eclectic and complex choreography, his first work that was set on Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1988.  The performances not only highlight the creative and technical skills of the campers, but also celebrate their growth in a dynamic display of the self-confidence, performance skills and pride developed during camp. In the New York area, the final performance for Children’s Aid/AileyCamp New York will be held at Hostos Center for the Arts and Culture on Thursday, August 8 at 7pm and AileyCamp Newark’s final performance will be held at New Jersey Performing Arts Center on Friday, August 9 at 7pm.

In partnership with local organizations, AileyCamp will provide a safe and creative environment to motivate and educate students in cities nationwide including:      

 Atlanta, GA — Atlanta Ballet (May 30 – July 6) 

Kansas City, MO and Kansas City, KS — Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey (June 6 – July 3)                 

Miami, FL — Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami-Dade County (June 24 – August 3)

Berkeley/Oakland, CA — Cal Performances (June 25 – August 3) 

Chicago, IL — Chicago Park District and Academy for Urban School Leadership (June 25 – August 2)        

New York, NY — Children’s Aid (July 1 – August 9)   

Newark, NJ —New Jersey Performing Arts Center and Newark Public Schools (July 1 – August 9)     

Seattle, WA — Seattle Theatre Group (July 3 – August 2) 

Baltimore, MD — Towson University (July 8 – August 16)                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Ailey Arts In Education & Community Programs are committed to bringing dance into classrooms, communities, and the lives of people of all ages. In addition to AileyCamp, programs include special student performances; lecture-demonstrations; technique classes; and innovative curriculum based residencies inspired by Revelations and Night Creature. For further details on Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the Ailey organization’s performances, training programs and Ailey Arts In Education activities, visit http://www.alvinailey.org/AIE.

Take a virtual tour and get an inside look of the impact of AileyCamp by watching The Today Show and NBC Nightly News segments and reading New York Times feature on Solomon Dumas. 

About the Author

New York Trend is a weekly news publication that focuses on issues and lifestyles of the African & Caribbean American communities throughout the New York metropolitan area and Nassau and Suffolk Counties of Long Island. It is a respected and well recognized news publication that has been in existence since 1989. Owner, Publisher and Executive Director, Dr. Teresa Taylor Williams has been at the helm of this award-winning publication since its inception. New York Trend continues to be the only black woman-owned, metropolitan newspaper in New York and Long island. New York Trend is the largest black-owned newspaper throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties.

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