In a small dressing room Saturday afternoon, nine young dancers from AileyCamp The Group crowded around a bank of mirrors checking makeup and donning leotards. The dance troupe was one of three performing in Festival on the Vine’s youth matinee performance at the Gem Theater in Kansas City.
The three-day festival of dance over the weekend featured Kansas City-based Owen/Cox Dance Group, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance from Colorado and CRISOL danza Fusión from Mexico. And Saturday was the moment for young dancers to take the stage.
Adding a last dash of blush, dancer Arionna Armstrong reflected on her time with AileyCamp The Group, which extends AileyCamp to a year-round program of classes and personal development. A graduating senior at Lincoln College Preparatory Academy, this was Armstrong's final performance.
“We are like family,” she said. “It is bittersweet for me. I’m going to miss people, but I feel like it’s time for me to start something new.”
High school junior Kayla Henderson said she couldn’t wait to get on stage. “It feels great,” Henderson said. “I’ve been performing for a long time with Alvin Ailey. It’s like second nature now so I think it will be an awesome show.”
As the dancers prepared backstage, Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey executive director Tyrone Aiken popped his head into the dressing room to let the dancers know it was time for their final rehearsal. “So I need everybody,“ Aiken said. “Put on whatever you need to put on. We have the stage a few minutes early, so come on.”
Sitting in the audience was Tamika Ross with her camera at the ready. Ross was there to see her daughter Kerryaunna Ross perform. Ross said her daughter has grown as a dancer since first taking part in the summer program AileyCamp as a seventh grader.
“They just take time and give really good advice to young dancers,” said Ross. “Yesterday her instructor Michael Joy advised her to write down lyrics to the song and then to think about how those lyrics make her feel, and then deliver that to the audience. Advice like that is just really good.”
Tyrone Aiken said that performing in front of an audience is an important rite of passage for young artists.
“Many of them may go on to become dancers, but regardless of whether or not they are going to become a dancer, it is an opportunity for them to have a real, enriched experience in terms of communicating with the audience” said Aiken. “So the wonderful thing about performing art is that you (the audience) are a part of it. Your ability to participate is really important.”
Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey presented Festival on the Vine June 18 - 20 at the Gem Theater, 1615 E 18th St, Kansas City, Missouri.