In April, the United States Embassy sponsored a master class by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre Company at the National Arts Centre. Dance students from around Ottawa were invited to attend the class, which was conducted by the dancer rehearsal director. The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre Company has performed for over twenty-three million people in the United States, Canada, and seventy other countries. The expertise of these world-famous dancers made for more than your average dance class for these student dancers.
Suzan Lavertu is the Artistic Director at the School of Afro-Caribbean Dance. One of her students participated in the master class, and Lavertu showed a DVD of the class to the rest of her students. Lavertu explained how valuable the experience was for her students, saying that the master class reinforced lessons that she teaches in her own classes. It supported her message that “color, ability, size or age should be the spice and experience that you bring to your dance expression and should not be what holds you back.”
Sofia Tsolis, a faculty member at the Ottawa Dance Centre School, watched the master class and found the experience personally moving. The master class and the performance the next day made her contemplate her own artistic work and emphasized the importance of constantly reevaluating her art. Tsolis recognized the importance of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre Company as an influence on choreography and style in many of the classes in which she had participated during her dance education. In one of the pieces titled “Revelations,” Tsolis saw “a very personal and deeply spiritual reason for dance,” something that she had not seen before.
Finally, Michelle McKernan of Makin’ Moves Dance Studio and one student attended the master class and followed the opportunity by teaching the choreography to her technique class. The experience was thrilling for her because her desire to be a professional dancer began in sixth grade when she saw the Alvin Ailey Company perform “Revelations.” She was excited that the instructor “explained Ailey’s intention when creating the movement.” Her students enthusiastically learned the choreography that Michelle and her student taught to the rest of the students from memory.
It was evident that the Alvin Ailey master class experience was equally as moving for the students as it was for their dance teachers. The choreography, especially from “Revelations,” inspired dancers of all ages to explore the messages, motivations, and technique involved in this form of art. Participants at the master class and students at their home studios were able to take part in a small piece of dance history through the world-renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre Company’s time at the National Arts Centre.