Alvin Ailey was an African American choreographer who founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York City. For the past 25 years, Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey have held AileyCamp, a month-long session for junior high-age students, to honor Ailey's work.
AileyCamp provides an intensive study of dance, but it also gives students a chance to expand their horizons. "We are a national model program," says KCFAA executive director Tyrone Aiken. "And this year we are serving 160 students between Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri."
On an "intense day"
"Camp starts each day at 7:15 am. It's a very intense day," says Michael Joy, Director of AileyCamp Missouri. "We have seven classes a day and really, throughout that day there's not too much down time. They're constantly working on something. It's an absolutely free program. All we ask is that the campers are committed to showing up every day."
On never getting a break
"The teachers push me and my favorite classes are jazz and ballet. And it's fun and you've got to work all the time," says Lilli Howard, 12, a student at Allen Village School in Kansas City, Mo. "You got to work, work, work, work, work. You never really get a break."
On living for dance
"What I like about dance is I get to express myself and dancing is what I live for," says Tyrese Bryant, 14, who attends Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts in Kansas City, Mo. "This camp has been a big inspiration on me."
Bryant learned to dance when he was five. "Well, I started off with hip hop, and then jazz, ballet, and modern, so it kind of took over," he says.
On showing leadership and potential
"I'm looking to be a great friend to people," adds Bryant. "Showing I'm responsible. Showing them leadership, and just showing what Tyrese Bryant can do."
On dancers as "world citizens"
"I danced with the Ailey Company for several years before I started doing what I am doing now," says Michael Joy, who's also director of Artistic and Educational Programs for Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey. "And Alvin Ailey always talked to his dancers about being world citizens. It's about knowing that you have access to a larger world.
"I know here working in Kansas City, I've come across many young people that don't venture further than their neighborhoods or further than their schools. AileyCamp is really about just broadening a young person's horizons and letting them know that they have choices and through those choices, that is where their power resides."
On dancing through generations
"Most of my family has danced - my grandmother, my mom. All of them have taken dance before. It was not necessarily their thing, but, for me, I like it a lot," says AileyCamper Lilli Howard. "I am looking forward to the final performance and seeing my mom and my grandma and all of them there and being really happy to see me dance."
On final performance as achievement
"At the final performance, everything that they've studied, everything that they've learned, comes down to this one opportunity," says KCFAA executive director Tyrone Aiken. "And so the preparation that they've put in, the hard work that they have toiled through all of those weeks, comes down to that moment. And to see what they can achieve, when they've set their minds to something is absolutely incredible."
Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey presents the AileyCamp 2013 final performance on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 at 7 pm, Wyandotte High School, 2501 Minnesota Avenue, Kansas City, Kan. The event is free to the public.