Talking Premieres and New Roles with Alvin Ailey's Jacquelin Harris
It's time Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's annual Lincoln Center season, and we couldn't be more excited. The company always delivers, thanks in large part to its roster of incredible dancers—including Jacquelin Harris, who is cast in Mauro Bigonzetti's Deep, set to premiere on June 10. (If you live in the NYC area, enter our giveaway for your chance to win a pair of tickets!) Harris spoke with DS about the new work, its music, the rehearsals and what she's learned along the way.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Jacquelin Harris (photo by Andrew Eccles, courtesy AAADT)
Dance Spirit: What has the process been like while rehearsing Deep? Have you worked with Mauro Bigonzetti before?
Jacquelin Harris: This was my first time working with Mauro since I've been in the company, but he has a long rapport with AAADT. Choreographers often will come into the studio with a work already created, to help speed up the process. But Mauro is very interested in the relationship between the dancer and choreographer—no movement was created prior to meeting the dancers. He wanted to see what he could bring out in us, and how we interacted with each other. It's really detailed and personalized, and if the dancers had their own visions, he was very open to listening.
DS: Did the way you rehearse change at all while working with him?
JH: Definitely. Working with Mauro has shown me that what I bring to the rehearsal is just as important is what the choreographer brings—it's okay for me to bring my creative intuition.
DS: What's your role in Deep?
JH: My character is balancing on the precipice. She's trying not to fall over the edge, into the "deep." She's trying to hang on to what everyone around her is hanging onto. There are a number of times where I almost go over the edge of the stage, then get pulled back by the other dancers.
DS: Can you talk a little bit about the music?
JH: It's beautiful. It's so soulful, sung by the duo Ibeyi. You can hear their emotions through the way they say their words, which really helps us with our movements.
DS: What have been some of the most enlightening moments of the whole experience?
JH: When we first ran the whole piece, there was something groundbreaking about the way it all fit together. With Mauro, you learn a piece or a section and practice it over and over, trying to make it seamless and figure out what needs to be done in order to make it work as a collective. There's a lot of partnering, and the piece is all about relationships with your partner and everyone else on the stage. And once you run it from top to bottom [after rehearsing all these sections], you understand how it all fits together. Everyone was clapping and cheering, and it was a great feeling.
Catch Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center, June 8–19!