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!
(From left) Darriel Johnakin, Diego Pasillas, and Emma Sutherland (all photos by Erin Baiano)
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Imagine attending American Ballet Theatre's prestigious NYC summer intensive, training among classical ballet legends. Imagine taking the stage at New York City Dance Alliance Nationals, competing against some of the country's best contemporary dancers. Now, imagine doing both—at the same time.
Welcome to Madison Brown's world. This summer, she's in her third year as a National Training Scholar with ABT, while also competing for NYCDA's Teen Outstanding Dancer title. (She's already won Outstanding Dancer in the Mini and Junior categories.) The logistics are complicated—ABT's five-week intensive overlaps with the weeklong NYCDA Nationals, which translates to a lot of cabs back and forth across Manhattan—but Maddie is committed to making the most of each opportunity. "I love contemporary and ballet equally," she says. "While I'm able to do both, I want to do as much as I can."
Maddie has an expressive face, endless extensions, and a quiet command of the stage. She dances with remarkable maturity—a trait noted by none other than Jennifer Lopez, one of the judges on NBC's "World of Dance," on which Maddie competed in Season 2. Although Maddie didn't take home the show's top prize, she was proud to be the youngest remaining soloist when she was eliminated, and saw the whole experience as an opportunity to grow. After all, she's just getting started. Oh, that's right—did we mention Maddie's only 14?
Corbin Bleu in rehearsal for "Kiss Me, Kate" (Jenny Anderson, courtesy Roundabout Theatre Company)
If you're a hardcore Broadway baby, today is the worst Sunday of the year. Why, you ask? The Tony Awards were last Sunday, so basically there's nothing to look forward to in life anymore—no James Corden being James Corden, no teary acceptance speeches from newly minted stars, no thrilling excerpts from the hottest new shows. Oh yeah, and there are 50 more Sundays to go before our humdrum lives are once again blessed with the next annual iteration of Broadway's biggest night.