Howard County ballerina Alicia Graf Mack rehearses for her… (Denee Barr, Denee Barr )
Here's great news for Howard County's dance fans: Columbia's sweetheart ballerina Alicia Graf Mack has rejoined the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. So folks will again be able to see her perform live in some genuine Ailey classics at the Kennedy Center during the coming winter season.
Even before she begins a 10-week tour with the world-renowned professional troupe, however, she has agreed to teach a master class with hometown dance students at the Ballet Royale Institute of Maryland. The former Alicia Graf will also perform in a special guest spot at two benefit shows put on by the Columbia dance studio June 11.
Now officially known as Alicia Graf Mack (she was married last year), her professional performance resumé is long and impressive, beginning with the Dance Theater of Harlem, where she attracted accolades from the New York Times.
Besides dazzling dance journalists in her first go-round with the Ailey company, and before being sidelined by a leg injury, she also danced with Alonzo King's LINES Ballet, Complexions and with Beyonce at Radio City Music Hall.
Now she's back, living in Howard County and commuting to New York City, where the Ailey company is based.
Last week we caught her at a rehearsal being conducted by teacher/mentor Donna Pidel, who is the school's founding director and producer of the upcoming benefit show.
Alicia can astound, whether performing astonishing feats of classical ballet, modern spirals, her own brand of undulating hip swings and head rolls, or that signature move of hers that consists of holding one leg stretched toward the ceiling while remaining solidly balanced. Few dancers can jump higher, turn faster, or perform with as much shading and intelligence.
In her solo "Light as Air," created specifically for her by Kirven J. Boyd (a fellow Ailey pro), the tall, lithe, classically trained contemporary dancer sets out to seduce the audience. With her intricate footwork and statuesque poses, she reigns on the stage like a royal goddess. Alicia is loved not just for her amazing movements, but for the warmth and joy she radiates from the stage.
Also for the upcoming concert, Mack choreographed a group piece titled "Nightbirds," a new work based on an older version first created by Pidel when Alicia was still a budding ballerina. It features, among others, Jessica Son, a junior at Reservoir High School; Elly Tilles, a sophomore at Marriotts Ridge High School; and Margaux Lucas, who attends Glenelg Country School. The three young dancers performed in solos, duets and groups at the rehearsal, always to the obvious delight of their teachers.
Ballet Royale Institute of Maryland's "Royale Concert Dancers Youth Company Premiere Gala," with guest artist Alicia Graf Mack, will be presented at the Alexander Pidel Performance Space in Columbia June 11 at 7 p.m. Reserved seating is $25, with proceeds going to victims of the Alabama tornados and Japanese earthquake. The Royale Concert Dancers Youth Company will also perform at 4:30 p.m. Tickets here are also $25, with $10 from each ticket going to the Red Cross. Alicia Graf Mack will also teach a Horton technique master class on June 11 at 1:30 p.m. open to high school, college and pre-professional dance students. The fee is $20. Call 410-997-8443 or go to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cuban and Danish dance
After nearly a decade's absence, local balletomanes have a chance to rediscover what makes the Ballet Nacional de Cuba so amazing. Directed by the legendary Alicia Alonso, this classical ballet company has broad appeal and attracts unusually large crowds.
Cuban dancers are fresh, athletic vibrant, and honest — you just can't fake those 32 fouettes required in "Don Quixote," one of the two programs being presented at the Kennedy Center Opera House now through Sunday, June 5.
The Royal Danish Ballet continues to command attention on the world stage with new productions of Bournonville's classics, "A Folk Tale" (June 7-9) and "Napoli" (June 10-12), both restaged by the company's new director, Nikolaj Hubbe, who recently left the New York City Ballet to return to his homeland.
As a special bonus, the Kennedy Center is offering a $20 discount for those who purchase tickets to both programs. You can't miss with either, because these Cubans still reign supreme. For tickets and information on all dance activities and free programs, call toll free 800-444-1324 or go to http://www.kennedy-center.org.