Jawole Willa Jo Zollar "is an artist who understands how to pull things out to find the essence of a work," says Robert Battle. Here, Zollar in the studio with Ailey dancers. Photo by Erica Hochstedler, Courtesy AAADT

Ailey's New Choreography Unlocked Festival Focuses on the Choreographic Process

Coming this fall to the ever-expanding Ailey organization is an intriguing new event: the Choreography Unlocked festival. From Oct. 12–14 and 26–28, the Joan Weill Center for Dance will host workshops, performances and panel discussions. It is an extension of Ailey's New Directions Choreography Lab, an annual residency fellowship for four emerging and mid-career choreographers, founded by artistic director Robert Battle in 2011.

Cameron McKinney working with students at The Ailey School through the New Directions Choreography Lab. Photo by Nicole Tintle, Courtesy AAADT

The festival offers a rare experience for choreographers to work collectively on their craft, and for students and public audiences to interact firsthand with the process of creating dance. "Choreographers tend to section off on their own, so I wanted to offer classes for them to come together and vibe off each other," says Battle. He also hopes to demystify the choreographic process for audiences.


The key component of the festival is process-oriented choreography classes geared toward critical thinking. Jawole Willa Jo Zollar will lead master classes for numerous New Directions alumni and other invited choreographers. Battle wanted to give an array of dancemakers the opportunity to work directly with Zollar because "she is an artist who understands how to pull things out to find the essence of a work." Stefanie Batten Bland will do the same for select Professional Division students at The Ailey School, and further workshops will be open to the public.

Rennie Harris will participate in a panel discussing how dance institutions are nurturing new choreographic voices. Photo by Claudia Schreier, Courtesy AAADT

Two performances will showcase pieces by Camille A. Brown, Juel D. Lane and Netta Yerushalmy—all fellowship alumni of New Directions. A separate public discussion, moderated by Danspace Project executive director Judy Hussie-Taylor, will bring to light different ways institutions can foster new and developing choreographers. A cross-genre panel, looking at how institutions are nurturing new voices, will be moderated by Battle with panelists including Thelma Golden, Darren Walker and the newly named artist in residence for the Ailey organization, Rennie Harris. "Audiences today are hungry for more. They want to understand process," Battle says. "Today everyone wants an open floor plan—cooking in the kitchen isn't a mystery anymore!"

Ailey's First Artist in Residence

Rennie Harris has been named artist in residence for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's 2018–19 60th-anniversary season. As part of this first-ever distinction, the renowned hip-hop choreographer will create a new piece (his fourth work with AAADT). Lazarus, the first two-act ballet to be created for the company, is set to premiere Nov. 30, during Ailey's New York City Center season. Harris will also serve as a creative mentor to Kyle Marshall, one of four choreographers in this season's New Directions Choreography Lab, and will teach and create throughout all Ailey branches.

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TaraMarie Perri in tree pose at Storm King Art Center. Photo by Sophie Kuller, Courtesy Perri

5 Self-Soothing Exercises You Can Do to Calm Your Anxiety

Physical stillness can be one of the hardest things to master in dance. But stillness in the bigger sense—like when your career and life are on hold—goes against every dancers' natural instincts.

"Dancers are less comfortable with stillness and change than most," says TaraMarie Perri, founder and director of Perri Institute for Mind and Body and Mind Body Dancer. "Through daily discipline, we are trained to move through space and are attracted to forward momentum. Simply put, dancers are far more comfortable when they have a sense of control over the movements and when life is 'in action.' "

To regain that sense of control, and soothe some of the anxiety most of us are feeling right now, it helps to do what we know best: Get back into our bodies. Certain movements and shapes can help ground us, calm our nervous system and bring us into the present.

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