Dance education

Alvin Ailey Dance Troupe Brings Dance Education to Underserved Communities in Paris : NPR

When the famous Alvin Ailey dance troupe tours, they do community outreach. This summer, they are in Paris to give lessons to underprivileged young dancers.


Now in Paris where audiences enjoy the first leg of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s European tour. For nearly 60 years, the company has performed modern dance inspired by the African-American experience.


MARTIN: Wherever the company goes, it also reaches out to underserved communities to provide dance education. NPR’s Eleanor Beardsley recently took part in a master class in Paris.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: While Alvin Ailey’s dancers perform every night before an urban audience in a concert hall west of Paris, another scene unfolds during the day across the city at the Georges Public Conservatory Bizet.

MATTHEW RUSHING: (speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: In a large dance studio lined with mirrors, Alvin Ailey’s longtime dancer and choreographer Matthew Rushing gives a lesson – a masterclass to a group of preteen dancers in black leggings and bare feet. Rushing says he was first inspired around their age at an after-school program in California. Then he saw an Alvin Ailey Dance Theater production.

RUSHING: I will never forget. There were two ballets that really touched me deeply. That’s when I realized for the first time that you can see yourself in art.

BEARDSLEY: Reaching young people who may not have the chance to see ballet continues to be a central part of the dance group’s ethos, even when touring overseas.

RUSHING: Because the more we share our stories, meaning African Americans, Latinos, and all kinds of cultures sharing their own stories, we see our stories in everybody’s story. And it reaches past culture and speaks to the spirit.

Do you know why I ask you to do it yourself?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: When he lacks French vocabulary, Rushing relies on an interpreter to communicate with the enthusiastic young dancers.

RUSHING: Exactly, exactly. Tell them you can’t be a dancer and be shy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: The American Embassy in Paris connected the Ailey company with these children. Emmanuel Oriol is the director of the conservatory of this popular district.

EMMANUEL ORIOL: (through an interpreter) What I appreciate about Matthew is that he is extremely encouraging with his students. He is rigorous, but he also motivates them with positive words. This positive motivating American culture really inspires them to dance better.

BEARDSLEY: Kiara Montoyasinera, 13, says she loves this dance class.

KIARA MONTOYASINERA: Like Alvin Ailey, it’s one of the biggest dance companies in the world. I just find it incredible to be here and do this and this person who comes to France and teaches us.

BEARDSLEY: Twelve-year-old Matteo Prevosto says he dreams of being a dancer and signed up straight away when he heard who was coming to teach them.

MATTEO PREVOSTO: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: “It’s quite stressful when it’s your turn to dance alone, and he tells everyone to watch you,” Prevosto explains. “But it teaches us to have more confidence in ourselves. We are really improving a lot.”

MATTEO: (speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: And with boundless energy and enthusiasm, Matthew Rushing pushes them further. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris.


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