Get Versatile with the Grafs
In today’s dance world, excelling in only one genre may not be enough to land you your dream job. Exposure to as many styles as possible will prepare you for a fruitful career. Who knows? You might learn something new about yourself as an artist.
And who better to learn from than two bonafide dance stars—sisters Daisha Graf and Alicia Graf Mack—who have pushed themselves to master various facets of dance. Under their new organization the Daisha and Alicia Graf Arts Collective, they’ve assembled an impressive roster of guest teachers for their inaugural “Made to Move” intensive, at the New York City Center studios on August 31. At first glance, they are two very different dancers: Alicia is one of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre’s brightest stars, while Daisha possesses a long list of commercial credits, including work with Beyoncé and Rihanna—and has just been signed to Epic Records as a recording artist. But they both started out in ballet, and each have modern and commercial backgrounds as well. (Daisha holds a BA in Dance from Hofstra, while Alicia “went on tour” with that other Alicia—Alicia Keys—this summer.)
“We’re really excited to start a project together—we have never been able to work together—to do something positive and give back to the arts community,” says Alicia. “Whenever I come back to New York from being on the road, we meet all these students on the street and in the Ailey building, and this is going to be a great way to connect with those dancers who are aspiring to be professional artists.”
The Graf sisters, in mentorly fashion, invited their own mentors to teach at “Made to Move.” Participants will start the jam-packed day with a Gyrokinesis class taught by none other than 2012 Dance Magazine Award recipient Renee Robinson. “Renee has the most generous spirit,” says Alicia. “Dancers need to know that those are the types of people who are honored in the dance world, who are divas in the best sense of the word.” Alicia will teach a contemporary class, and then Ronald K. Brown, director of Evidence/A Dance Company, will teach a master class. Brown has actually influenced the professional lives of both sisters. “Daisha did ADF when she was a student and he used her in a piece, and that kind of changed her perspective on modern dance and African dance,” says Alicia. “And when I came to Ailey from a more classical world, he cast me in his ballet Ife / My Heart and I think that allowed people to see that I actually have rhythm and I can do another style. I will be forever grateful that he took that chance with me, and said you can do this.”
For a lunchtime Q&A, panelists including American Ballet Theatre’s Misty Copeland, Ailey’s Antonio Douthit-Boyd and Kirven Douthit-Boyd (our favorite newlyweds), plus the founder of E! Entertainment, Daisha’s commercial agent, and a dancer-turned-dance publicist, will take your questions.
The afternoon moves into a more commercial arena: Daisha and her mentor Rhapsody James, who has choreographed for Beyoncé, Cassie, and Step Up 2: The Streets, will each teach a class, and then the day ends with celebrity vocal coach Ankh Ra Amenhetep (you might recognize him from MTV’s Making the Band). “We felt it was necessary for the dancers to have a voice lesson,” says Alicia, “because if you go to an audition and they ask you to speak or sing, we want you to know your voice, to at least have heard it a few times.”