AileyDance Kids residency culminates with SOPAC grand finale

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SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — South Orange Performing Arts Center, in partnership with The Ailey Organization’s Arts In Education & Community Program, facilitated a 16-week AileyDance Kids residency culminating with a grand finale performance on Feb. 6. Students from South Orange and Maplewood middle schools performed on the SOPAC stage, launching the school district’s observance of Black History Month and celebrating the dancers’ achievements with their classmates, families and school community. The performance represented a demonstration of what students had learned over the course of the dance residency program, including warm-up and technical movements, as well as choreographed ensemble pieces.

Kicking off the event, SOPAC Executive Director Mark Packer outlined how the collaboration between SOPAC and South Orange Maplewood School District’s Fine and Performing Arts Department supervisor James Manno led to partnering with Ailey Arts in Education. Packer credited Manno for identifying the need for cultural arts education diversity in SOMA schools and for connecting SOPAC to Maplewood resident Nasha Thomas, AileyCamp national director and master teacher for Arts In Education. Packer also thanked the many contributors who made the residency a success, including SOMS Principal Lynn Irby and MMS Principal Dara Gronau, as well as Ailey Arts in Education teaching artist Darius “Damazi” Williams and musician Sean Clements.

“Celebrating Revelations at 50,” a film tribute by Emmy award-winning producer and director Judy Kinberg, was screened in the SOPAC performance hall before the finale. The film, which was created for the 50th anniversary of Alvin Ailey’s iconic masterpiece “Revelations,” features Alvin Ailey and Judith Jamison discussing the history of the seminal piece and its influence on American dance. “Revelations” is the signature choreographic work of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. It was first performed by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City on Jan. 31, 1960. “Revelations” tells the story of African-American faith and tenacity, from slavery to emancipation, through a suite of dances set to spirituals and blues music. Upon conclusion of the film, students performed an excerpt of “Revelations” titled “I’ve Been ’Buked.”

The AileyDance Kids residency at SOMSD was made possible by SOPAC through a grant from the Hearst Foundations.

Photos Courtesy of James Manno