Exciting Things Ahead for Ailey II's Annellyse Munroe

It's been a little over a year since Ailey II member Annellyse Munroe graced the February 2015 cover of DS with two of her fellow company members, Samantha Barriento and Shay Bland. It was immediately clear that the talent runs deep in Ailey II, and the year that lay ahead would bring a ton of incredible challenges and opportunities for the dancers. This has certainly proved true for Munroe, who's gearing up for three premieres this upcoming season, running from March 30–April 10. DS caught up with her to hear how she's progressed, some standout moments and more.

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Munroe in all her graceful glory in our February 2015 issue (photo by Erin Baiano)

Dance Spirit: When you last spoke with us for the cover story, you said you'd never had the chance to perform a rep like the one you were experiencing at Ailey II. How have these new pieces challenged you?

Annellyse Munroe: This year, I've had the opportunity to work with three choreographers who are all so varied and different in their teaching styles, and it's been amazing. I'm dancing in three new works, which is very exciting.

Jean Emile's In & Out is a very personal piece to the choreographer, as it's about the ups and downs of contemporary life. It's so different from anything Ailey II has done, with a very upbeat pace and elements of comedy. I perform a duet in it, and I think the story is lovely—it's an audience pleaser, for sure.

The second new work is Ray Mercer's Something Tangible. It truly connected all of the dancers during rehearsal. The synergy is really evident—it's all about encountering love, fear and self-doubt. We were given this opportunity to get on the stage and just have fun and be free. That's what Mercer wanted, and it's really powerful to see.

The third new piece I'm in is Kyle "JustSole" Clark's I Am the Road. It's a hip-hop/house piece, which is new for Ailey II, so it's awesome that I was given this opportunity. The work is about his life as a dancer, so again it's very personal to the choreographer, which makes dancing it that much more special. It's high-energy and so much fun.

DS: How has your mentality shifted over the past year as you've settled into the company?

AM: I feel much more confident as a dancer and person. Going onstage isn't nearly as nerve-wracking as it used to be—it's all about sharing with and connecting to my audience. Being a second-year in Ailey II is very much like being a role model for the younger dancers, and the energy is fantastic. We all get along so well.

Ailey's next top model (photo by B. O'Brien for Bloomberg Businessweek)

DS: What are a few standout moments from the past year?

AM: I had the chance to venture into the fashion world, with a feature in Bloomberg Businessweek along with my fellow company member, Lloyd Boyd III. We modeled these comfy, slouchy business pants for a photo essay. Getting to show off fashion while dancing was so much fun. Lloyd and I were also just in a conceptual dance video for singer Maxwell's new song, "Roses." At his Valentine's Day show at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY, they projected the video behind him. It was crazy and emotional to see ourselves dancing on this huge screen, and even crazier because people in the audience recognized us!

DS: What's a piece of advice you want to share with our readers?

AM: You have to be your own supporter. At the end of the day, you really do only have yourself. So go into the studio and prepare for each day with the mindset that you're the one in charge of your future and furthering your professional career.

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