Kansas City, June 8, 2017: Silently lining the blonde, hardwood floor of a sun-drenched studio in Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts, young people discovered recently that the first step to learning how to dance is learning how to be still.
They were all students in the Kansas City Public Schools Summer Acceleration 2017 AileyCamp program, a six-week experience for kids in grades 6-8. On the first day of the camp, June 5, Site Director Tyrone Aiken walked down the isles of assembled students while softly but firmly gesturing and guiding the students to center themselves.
The camp uses dance, music, art and poetry to teach students how to be more disciplined, confident and healthier, to build self-esteem, and to improve academically, according to staff member Michele Cox. It’s also often the first opportunity for many campers to learn about the career and life opportunities available through dance and other performing arts.
“We believe that dance can and should be an outlet for everybody, something they can use to address life’s challenges,” Ms. Cox said. “We want to expose these students to this whole world of dance that they may not have even known existed.”
Cox’s sentiment is a direct expression of the philosophy of legendary and pioneering dancer and choreographer Alvin Ailey, who founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater company that started the camp. The KCPS camp is a partnership with the Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey organization.
“Dance comes from the people and we believe we have an obligation to give it back to the people,” Cox said.