“It’s our responsibility to make sure that they have a connection to what we’re doing, to art and to culture,”
Marcus J Willis, workshop leader and former Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater dancer
In 2021, Dance Consortium launched a partnership with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater to provide learning and engagement opportunities to young dancers in the UK. We celebrated the beginning of our partnership with an Ailey Project UK workshop in Birmingham, and on Saturday 15 January 2022, we collaborated on a second workshop – this time in Nottingham at Royal Concert Hall Nottingham.
Young dancers from local studio Take 1 Dance, who have an ongoing partnership with the theatre, took part in an inspirational day of dance led by former Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater dancer Marcus J Willis.
The workshop took place on the Royal Concert Hall Nottingham stage and started with an introduction to Horton technique workshop and screening of Alvin Ailey’s iconic piece, Revelations. Marcus then taught the dancers a section of Wade in the Water, delving into the history and the meaning behind each of the movements. The young dancers were then given a chance to see archive footage of Judith Jamison in company rehearsals, giving them an even deeper understanding of the repertoire created by Alivin Ailey some 60 years ago.
Prior to the workshop the young dancers had sent questions to the current Ailey dancers knowing they could not be there in person. It was great to have their questions answered via video messages filmed in New York alongside a Q&A session with Marcus and Samina Beckford, Programme Coordinator for the Ailey Project UK.
Martell, a young dancer from Take 1 Dance, shared that the workshop encouraged them [update with correct pronouns] to “push myself that extra extent when creating and learning,” while fellow Take 1 dancer Anna described that it “reignited my enthusiasm for contemporary dance in this style.”
Marcus, who led the workshop and has previously performed on stage at Royal Concert Hall Nottingham with Dance Consortium’s tour of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 2010, said that “it’s always really exciting to come into a room full of young people who are so eager.”
Speaking on the importance of exposure to international dance companies, “it really does give them a wealth of knowledge and a wealth of culture that they can integrate into their daily lives as they go forward. It’s our responsibility to make sure that they have a connection to what we’re doing, to art and to culture.”
During a time that has presented the arts with continuing challenges, we were encouraged to see such enthusiasm from the dancers taking part in the workshop and look forward to continuing our partnership with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
Thank you to Marcus J Willis, Take 1 Dance, Royal Concert Hall Nottingham and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater for helping us facilitate Ailey Project UK.