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Q&A: Alvin Ailey Dance Theater educates audiences on inclusion


Alvin Ailey Dance Theater will return to Bloomington at 8 p.m. March 19 at the IU Auditorium as part of its 60th anniversary tour. Haley Klezmer Buy Photos

Alvin Ailey Dance Theater will return to Bloomington at 8 p.m. March 19 at the IU Auditorium as part of its 60th anniversary tour. Since its creation in 1958, the company has become influential among African American dance tradition. The Indiana Daily Student spoke with current dancer Chalvar Monteiro.

Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.

IDS: How does it feel to be able to perform as a part of the company’s 60th anniversary tour?

CM: It’s pretty special. I’ve always dreamed of being in this company. It’s very important to be in this company as it was founded as a means of giving black artists a place to exist and thrive because there was no other place for us to go at the time that this company was founded. I mean there were little opportunities here and there, but Mr. Alvin Ailey saw a deficit in the community for places that people of color could go to be. So now that we’re celebrating 60 years of that mission and of that legacy, it’s really important, and it’s also great to be a part of an organization that raises a mirror to society and shows the world what it can be and what it can look like if we really choose to practice that thing called inclusion.

What should people expect from the performance?

Honestly I think they should expect to not only be entertained but to see dance that can spark up a conversation with people that they wouldn’t normally talk to. I think that the whole focus and function of the theater experience, coming to see a work or theater or music and seeing something that you can relate to and hopefully having that spark up a conversation with the person next to you, somebody that you don’t already know.

In what ways is the company dedicated to education?

Outreach is one of the biggest components of the organization. There’s Ailey Camp, there’s the Ailey School and even Ailey 2. We all do our own part in outreach, and I think that doing mini-performances where we do a smaller scale performance of what we would do in the evening for the general admission, we give young students and young people sometimes their first theater experience that they wouldn’t otherwise have. You know, just pretty much showing them that a future in the arts is possible.

Where is your favorite place you have performed with the company?

My favorite place was actually my first tour with the company and it was to South Africa for three weeks. We were in Johannesburg for two weeks and Cape Town for one. And being able to perform in Africa was a dream come true. Being able to just go out and see what South Africa is like post-Apartheid and see society and also just being in a place where life started was really special.

How do you think your performances impact an audience?

The one thing I think that is always spoken about is how you know you can really see the spirit of the company onstage, because a lot of what we do is centered around spirit and spirituality and humanity. I think that’s one of the most special things people take away from a performance. Honestly, on the other side of the curtain I don’t really know because I’m so focused on enjoying myself and doing the things I need to do as the artist.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced since starting with the company?

The biggest challenge would just be the maintenance of taking care of your body while you’re on the road. We tour seven to eight months out of the year and just the brunt that your body takes is hard. So just being able to keep up with the demand is the hardest part for me because I enjoy the traveling so missing home comes and goes. I deal with that pretty well but keeping up with the aches and the pains is the hardest part.

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