Andrew Eccles, Courtesy Ailey

Dance Magazine Award Honoree: Masazumi Chaya

When Masazumi Chaya moved to New York City in 1970, leaving his Japanese homeland behind, he never dreamed he would become one of the longest-serving artists with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

For 47 years, Chaya has been a constant force in the Ailey studios: first as a dancer for 15 years, then as choreographic assistant to Ailey, a rehearsal director and, most recently, associate artistic director alongside Judith Jamison and Robert Battle. Quietly guiding hundreds of AAADT dancers to find their own artistic voices has sustained his unwavering work ethic for decades.


While dancing with the company, Chaya caught Ailey's eye for his ability to learn multiple roles quickly, retain choreographic details and teach other dancers. He cultivated these skills over the years, becoming an invaluable asset and memory keeper for the company.

During Jamison's tenure as director, she referred to Chaya as her right arm, someone who sat next to her in rehearsals, listening and learning every step. She says she finds Chaya's story amazing. "Simply because Alvin gave him the opportunity to do this work, in a company that celebrates the African-American culture and expression," she says, "Chaya immersed himself in what it means to be part of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater."

Masazumi Chaya at the dress rehearsal for Alvin Ailey's The Road of the Phoebe Snow (which he restaged in 2007)

Paul Kolnik, Courtesy Ailey

Whether in the studio, the boardroom or theaters around the world, Chaya is a diplomat and a direct connection to the Ailey legacy.

"Chaya understands the importance of keeping Alvin's name ever present," says Jamison.

In January, he will pass the associate artistic director torch on to rehearsal director Matthew Rushing. But Chaya will remain a vital contributor to the Ailey family, launching a licensing project for Alvin Ailey's ballets, affording other companies the opportunity to perform his extensive repertory. He says, "I want another generation of dancers to experience his work!"

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Stark Photo Productions, Courtesy Harlequin

Why Your Barre Can Make or Break Your At-Home Dance Training

Throughout the pandemic, Shelby Williams, of Royal Ballet of Flanders (aka "Biscuit Ballerina"), has been sharing videos that capture the pitfalls of dancers working from home: slipping on linoleum, kicking over lamps and even taking windows apart at the "barre." "Dancers aren't known to be graceful all of the time," says Mandy Blackmon, PT, DPT, OSC, CMTPT, head physical therapist/medical director for Atlanta Ballet. "They tend to fall and trip."

Many dancers have tried to make their home spaces as safe as possible for class and rehearsal by setting up a piece of marley, like Harlequin's Dance Mat, to work on. But there's another element needed for taking thorough ballet classes at home: a portable barre.

"Using a barre is kinda Ballet 101," says 16-year-old Haley Dale, a student in her second year at American Ballet Theatre's Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School. She'd bought a portable barre from Harlequin to use at her parents' home in Northern Virginia even before the pandemic hit. "Before I got it, honestly I would stay away from doing barre work at home. Now I'm able to do it all the time."

Blackmon bought her 15-year-old stepdaughter a freestanding Professional Series Ballet Barre from Harlequin early on in quarantine. "I was worried about her injuring herself without one," she admits.

What exactly makes Harlequin's barres an at-home must-have, and hanging on to a chair or countertop so risky? Here are five major differences dancers will notice right away.

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December 2020