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Ailey II Brings Youthful Energy to Argyros
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Ailey II with Artistic Director Francesca Harper and Rehearsal Director Lakey Evans-Pena. COURTESY: Ailey II
 
 
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Thursday, February 2, 2023
 

BY KAREN BOSSICK

Dancer Alvin Ailey opened the Alvin Ailey dance school in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 1969 to offer pre-professional training programs for young dancers while preserving the uniqueness of the African-American cultural experience.

Ailey II, a popular modern dance company that stages professional-caliber shows, was founded in 1974 as a bridge between the Ailey School and the professional dance world. That program will perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 3-4, at The Argyros in Ketchum as part of the performing arts center tribute to Black History Month.

Tickets start at $75, available at https://theargyros.org/calendar/alvin-ailey-ailey-ii/.

 
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Ailey II in “Enemy in the Figure.” PHOTO: Erin Baiano/Ailey II
 

“We’re a very eclectic group of dancers—everyone very different, everyone with unique things to offer,” said Dancer Rachel Yoo. “Our artistic director Francesca Harper danced in Germany at Ballet Frankfurt and she is wonderful in that she allows people to be themselves on stage.”

The 12 dancers—six men and six women—will perform three works:

  • “Psukhe” choreographed by Andrea Miller is a very visceral work set to electronic music with a lot of complex solos and partnering. The title is a Greek word meaning “life, breath, spirit and soul,” according to Yoo.
  • “Enemy in the Figure” was created by William Forsythe, who happens to be Francesca Harper’s mentor.

    “It’s my favorite piece—it allows me to do a lot of improvisation,” said Yoo. “And I love getting to go on stage every night and move from my own self. It thrills me knowing I can do what I want to rather than doing set choreography. It involves some risk taking going to extremes with our bodies and that thrills me, as well.”

     
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    Ailey II in Francesca Harper’s “Freedom Series. PHOTO: Erin Baiano/Ailey II
     

  • “Freedom Series” was choreographed by Francesca Harper. It offers a series of vignettes where memory strives to influence the future. Much of the work was based on Harper’s own life, said Yoo. “She uses the piece to examine identity and community via a blend of acoustic and electronic sounds.”

This is Yoo’s second year with the company. It’s also her last since dancers spend just two years with the company before being propelled into the professional world.

Yoo was in her senior year at the Ailey, Fordham,BFA program when the pandemic emerged. Once it hit, there was no work available and nothing happening in the dance industry.

“I got an email a year later saying that Ailey II was under new directorship—that of Francesca Harper—and that they were offering seniors a chance for an audition,” said Yoo. “I had a zoom audition and was offered an apprenticeship.”

Knowing they only get to dance with the company for two years imbues dancers with an extra spark, said Yoo.

“The fact that we’re still such a young company, we have dancers with such a strong spirit and youthful energy. Whenever we’re on stage or working together there’s a freshness that always exists in how we approach things.” 

 

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