Performing Arts

Chance at a life-changing scholarship for two Miami dance students

Robert Battle, artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, teaches a master class to students from the New World School of the Arts and Miami Northwestern High School at the Adrienne Arsht Center in 2015.
Robert Battle, artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, teaches a master class to students from the New World School of the Arts and Miami Northwestern High School at the Adrienne Arsht Center in 2015. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has been a popular presence on Miami's arts and arts education scene, from its annual performances at the Adrienne Arsht Center to AileyCamp Miami, the summer program for middle school students sponsored by the Arsht, to free student shows, master classes, and residencies in public schools. Much of that increased Miami connection is due to the efforts of the troupe's Liberty City raised artistic director, Robert Battle, who has helped bring the famed New York company closer to his home town.

Now the Ailey troupe has announced that Miami will be one of four cities where two talented teenage dancers will be chosen to receive a full scholarship to The Ailey School's Summer Intensive in New York. Dubbed the Ailey Awakening Summer Intensive Scholarship, and funded by the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust, it will be given to one female and one male dance student, ages 14 to 18, to cover tuition and housing.

Battle has often said that an Ailey company performance he saw on a field trip as a 14 year old dance student at Northwestern High School, inspired his journey in dance.

"When I first saw [company signature work] “Revelations,” it was an awakening," he told the Herald last year. "After seeing it you'll never be the same. It's always going to be a part of you."

Miami auditions for the scholarship will be held at the New World School of the Arts on Sunday Feb. 26th, the last day of the company's Feb. 23 to 26 run at the Arsht Center. The summer program includes a five-week Junior Division, for ages 11 to 15, and a six-week Professional Division, for ages 16 to 25.

Another top Ailey member, star dancer Jamar Roberts, who is from South Miami-Dade and went to New World, attended the company's school before joining the troupe.

The other cities chosen for the Awakening scholarship are New York, Lexington, Kentucky and Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Coincidentally, William Rand Kenan, Jr., the industrialist who founded the scholarship’s sponsor, has historical connections to South Florida. Kenan (who died in 1965) partnered with Henry Flagler in developing the Florida East Coast Railway and the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach. Flagler married Kenan's sister, and after Flagler and the sister died, Kenan inherited most of his estate.

The company's Miami shows will include several new dances, including MacArthur "Genuis" award winner Kyle Abraham's "Untitled America," based on the experience of families in the prison system; longtime company dancer Hope Boykin's "r-Evolution, Dream," inspired by the writings and speeches of Martin Luther King Jr.; and Battle's "Ella," a solo set to music of jazz icon Ella Fitzgerald.

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