Based on a foundation of personal development, AileyCamp Miami empowers 11- to 14-year-olds with the confidence and skills to reimagine their lives, through the vehicle of dance. Each year, the program offers 100 public middle school students the opportunity to explore four types—modern, jazz, ballet, and West African—and provides Creative Communication and Personal Development classes, as well. During the course of six weeks, students learn a diverse range of dance forms, while making connections among art, body awareness, and healthful choices. All of these activities take place in the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts’ renowned halls.
Each instructor teaches 25 campers and incorporates various techniques. In modern dance, campers run and jump to explore movement through space. Jazz students practice in groups, learning to connect movements to create combinations. And, because teachers describe most ballet steps in French, students learn the dance vocabulary, as well as a foreign language.
Choreographer, dancer, and activist Alvin Ailey brought modern African-American dance to the stage in 1958. One of his significant messages—that “dance is for everybody”—lives on at AileyCamp Miami. To ensure that the program is accessible to youth from all parts of the city, the camp offers free transportation to and from the Arsht Center. As a result, participants represent a wide swath of Miami-Dade County, encompassing both urban and rural areas.
Emphasizing historical and cultural concepts in the performing arts, the curriculum explores a number of different genres and influences, including workshops that examine Alvin Ailey’s Revelations, the signature choreographic work of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Students also experience the cultural traditions of West African dance and drumming, learning about the specific dance patterns, chants, and vocabulary surrounding a typical village event.
While studying the past is, indeed, a key component, campers also address contemporary issues through dance. Quite often, art and life merge in topical discussions. These classroom conversations both empower and encourage students to create their own work, including choreography and spoken-word pieces. Before camp ends, they participate in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity—performing in front of a public audience of more than 1,800.
These young people also have multiple occasions to expand their camp experience, leading to future learning opportunities. During an alumni reunion, eager students maintain their network of support. They have lunch together, attend an Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performance, and meet Robert Battle, the theater’s artistic director.
AileyCamp Miami prepares students to proceed into the world with confidence and skill. And, teens vie for coveted spots in this program. Since its founding eight years ago, more than 20 percent of alumni have continued their studies at dance magnet schools.
Dance gave me a voice and a way to express myself, and I wanted to pass that passion on to others. It’s exciting to see the kids come in and connect with the world and each other, the way I did.Mary Kerr Group Leader and former camper, AileyCamp Miami