Modern Dance Meets Storytelling as Ailey II Takes the Stage at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts

group of photo of the dancers in Ailey II
The dancers of Ailey II are eager to take the stage at the Washington Center for Performing Arts to showcase their talents. It is a performance you won't want to miss. Photo credit: Nir Arieli

Many art forms strive to tell a story or express an element of life as we know it, and dance is no different. From ballet to hip hop, movements pair with music to capture emotions and ideas that are integral to our modern life and our history. Ailey II is one of the finest dance companies in the nation known for its pioneering mission to establish an extended cultural community through dance performances, training and community programs for all people. The talented dancers of Ailey II are coming to Olympia to perform at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts where they will present three beautifully adapted and masterfully choreographed dances under the creative direction of Artistic Director Francesca Harper. Experience the amazing storytelling and dance techniques at their show on January 31 at 7:30 p.m. and buy your tickets today!

Francesca grew up in the Ailey Dance Company with her mother teaching and choreographing for Ailey II. Watching her mother and Alvin Ailey himself work alongside talented new dancers inspired her to pursue a life of dance herself. Photo credit: Nir Arieli

A Passion Project Coming to the Washington Center for the Performing Arts

The Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble was founded in New York in 1974 under Alvin Ailey, who had a vision to provide the essential training and support for dancers of all backgrounds and levels to achieve a successful career in dance.

“The Ailey Company is all equal as an ensemble, and that equality and inclusion was really part of Alvin’s mission,” shares Francesca. “It is driven as a place for people of color with a multicultural foundation. People were as important and inspiring in the work, and he really empowered his dancers to showcase their uniqueness.” Francesca is deeply committed to upholding his legacy as the artistic director to ensure dancers can have the same amazing support and opportunities that she had growing up.

Many different works have inspired her and influenced her artistic direction, which can be seen in the Ailey II choreography presented in their upcoming tour at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts. “We are really excited to come to the Center with the three pieces I curated for our inaugural program,” shares Francesca. In one incredible performance, Ailey II will be presenting “Ps?khe” choreographed by Andrea Miller, “Enemy in the Figure” choreographed by William Forsythe, and “Freedom Series” choreographed by Francesca herself.

Francesca’s mentor William Forsythe largely influenced her dance career, which is why his part of his piece ‘Enemy in the Figure’ was adapted for the stage in Ailey II’s inaugural program. This section usually leaves audience members on the edge of their seat. Photo credit: Erin Baiano

“Ps?khe” is very visceral and imaginative, and features unexpected partnering and complex solos set to the electronic music of Nicolas Jaar. The title is an Ancient Greek word meaning “life’s breath, spirit, and soul,” which captures the energy of this performance. “Andrea Miller has this wonderful abandonment and creativity that allows the dancers to be storytellers and collaborative in the work,” Francesca says. “I just admire her work,” Francesca says.

“Enemy in the Figure” was choreographed by Francesca’s mentor and contemporary choreographer William Forsythe and was developed in 1989. “We will be performing an excerpt from that piece that is one of the most intensely propulsive sections of the work,” shares Francesca. Driven by the electronic rhythms, score, and percussion of Thom Willems and influenced by the radical use of light and shadow, this electric performance puts the formidable dance skills of Ailey II dancers on fine display as they disappear into the shadows and are tossed around the stage, seemingly by unknown forces.

The final piece in the upcoming tour is Francesca Harper’s personal piece titled ‘Freedom Series.’ This emotional work tells the story of Francesca during the height of her dance career, the loss of her beloved mother, and her transition into her role as artistic director for Ailey II. Photo credit: Erin Baiano06

Finally, “Freedom Series” travels through the landscape of Francesca’s personal memories, beginning with the passing of her mother in 2010 after her battle with cancer. “The piece opens up that moment and goes through the memories of her, her glamours and inspiration, and my mourning,” Francesca explains. “It then goes into my travels and dancing at the height of my career to a final solo that embodies passing on Alvin Ailey’s legacy and wisdom.” The performance features a musical collage of different electronic and soul music and costumes by Elias Gurrola. Within this work, Francesca examines identity and community through unexpected twists and turns that bridge tender moments to intrinsic ferocity.

‘Ps?khe’ is a performance originally choreographed by Andrea Miller and has been adapted under Francesca’s artistic direction for Ailey II’s inaugural program. Photo courtesy: Ailey II

Experience Modern and Contemporary Dance in a New Light with Ailey II at the Washington Center

Ailey II is an amazing dance experience that audience members will feel deep in their soul. Under Francesca’s direction, modern and contemporary dance continue to blend in a hybrid art form that perfectly exemplifies Alvin Ailey’s vision throughout the years. Experience the wonder of this talented dance company for yourself and buy your ticket for the show online today or call the box office at 360.753.8586.

The Washington Center for the Performing Arts
512 Washington Street SE, Olympia
Box office: 360.753.8586

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