Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's most recognizable work is Ailey's Revelations—a masterpiece that's been performed continuously since its premiere in 1960. Sylvia Waters, former artistic director of Ailey II, coached AAADT dancer Fana Tesfagiorgis through the opening steps of the haunting first section, “I Been 'Buked."
(Photo by Eduardo Patino)
Ailey II, the prestigious second company of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, has spent the last two months touring the world with four new works by Adam Barruch, Katarzyna Skarpetowska, Jennifer Archibald and AAADT artistic director Robert Battle. This Tuesday, April 2, Ailey II returns home to the Ailey Citygroup Theater for a two-week NYC season, where they'll alternate the new works with old favorites. We caught up with Daphne Lee, a second-year company member and recent graduate of the Ailey/Fordham B.F.A. program, who is facing an interesting crossroads as her time in Ailey II comes to a close following the NYC performances.
Dance Spirit: What was the most important thing you learned while dancing with Ailey II?
Daphne Lee: Don't lose who you are as a dancer. Sometimes, I have moments of doubt, when I think, "Wait, why was I hired?" I'm learning to remember that even on my "off" days, I'm still a member of a team responsible for bringing the work to life.
DS: How did you juggle both Ailey II and the B.F.A. program?
DL: As soon as I got asked to apprentice my sophomore year, I signed up for a bunch of summer courses. By the time I got to senior year, I had finished all my course work, so I could focus exclusively on Ailey II. School-wise, all I did senior year was graduate!
Daphne Lee and Riccardo Battaglia in Adam Barruch's Alchemies (photo by Eduardo Patino)
DS: Overall, what has been your favorite work to perform?
DL: You mean besides Revelations? Obviously that's my favorite piece! I loved dancing the roles of the umbrella girl and the gossip sister at the end of the yellow section. These parts let me play a character and really go over the top with it—to be something bigger than life.
DS: What about this season—do you have a favorite piece?
DL: Adam Barruch's Alchemies—it's such a different way of moving for me, especially since I come from a more classical background. He takes us to a completely different world that's dark and creepy and wonderful.
DS: What will you miss most about the company?
DL: The people. We're such a close knit family. But also the traveling. I've gotten to go to so many places I never imagined, even within the U.S. It was a dream: I'd wake up in a new place, perform and then the next day, go out and sight-see. I'd try to get to know the people and the culture, and then bring that back to my dancing.
DS: What's next for you?
DL: That's the question of the day! I pray that I'll get to dance with AAADT someday, but I'm open to any repertoire company. I'm also open to commercial work—I did a show with Beyoncé last year. Oh...and Broadway! I'd love to dance in The Lion King. I want to be a name that everyone knows, like Baryshnikov. It's going to be hard and take time, but it's my goal.
DS: Do you have any advice for DS readers on becoming a professional dancer?
DL: Keep that fire going. Ignore the rejection and the setbacks, and continue on your journey. With a little faith, a little goal and a little direction, you can make it.