In July, Troy Powell was promoted to artistic director of Ailey II, the young company that's an extension of the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre, the juggernaut known for incorporating and revolutionizing the African-American experience in modern dance.
For Powell, 43, taking over for his beloved mentor, Sylvia Waters, is just more of the same. He began dancing at age 9, after being selected by Alvin Ailey for a scholarship. Powell graduated from New York's High School of Performing Arts and launched his professional career with a 2 1/2-year stint dancing with Ailey II and then touring all over the world for a decade with the main company. He went on to teach at The Ailey School and create dances as the second company's resident choreographer, then served as the company's assistant artistic director.
He says he's followed the career path Ailey always envisioned for his dancers.
In his new job, Powell is still seeking Waters' advice, still talking to her every day. Despite stepping down in July after 38 years with the company, Waters still helps in coaching dancers as they work to master "Revelations," Ailey's masterwork that chronicles the African-American experience.
In a phone interview from Fayetteville, N.C., Powell talked about the company and the lineup for the Park City concert that's part of a 31-city worldwide tour as well as the kickoff event for the Park City Performing Arts Foundation's new season..
What can audience members expect from an Ailey concert lineup?
I think people can sit in the theater and be able to enjoy it without it being or looking like it's just dance. I think the most wonderful thing about it being theater is that sometimes we can vocalize act, speak, sing not just dance. The audience are part of the production. There's not a wall. You feel like as the audience member you're really involved in what they're trying to say.
What's your goal for Ailey II?
To continue for Ailey II to gain a popularity of its own by bringing in ballets that are more challenging for the dancers so that they can grow as artists. These dancers, 19-22, are young, training, still being groomed. That's definitely the mission of the company. They are very hungry, very committed. They want to step into the professional field. That's their mission, their ambition. You see their energy, their youthfulness.
How does it feel to dance "Revelations," considered the greatest hit of modern dance?
I don't look at it as a piece I've rehearsed. It's something you feel. As a dancer, you're bringing something different to it, each and every time. As much as we rehearse it, as much as we coach the dancers on the technical aspects of it, they always have to bring themselves to it. Alvin Ailey never said: "Do it the way this person does it." He wanted to create this work based on individuality and humanity. You bring yourself to the movement.
After years of performing and teaching "Revelations," how does it affect you?
After seeing it, rehearsing it, teaching it, dancing it it never fails. I watch it all the time, and I'm still moved by it because of what it does to the audience members and the dancers. It's a celebration of African-American experience. It touches people all over the world, no matter what you believe in, no matter what color you are, no matter what your religion is. You can relate to it.
Are you ready for 'Revelations'?
Ailey II is scheduled to perform three works at its Park City concert: Judith Jamison's "Divining," Benoit-Swan Pouffer's "Rusty" and Alvin Ailey's masterwork "Revelations" which promoters say has been seen by more people throughout the world than any other modern-dance work to kick off the Park City Performing Arts Foundation's new season.
When • Friday, Nov. 2, 7:30 p.m.
Where • Eccles Performing Arts Center, 1750 Kearns Blvd., Park City
Tickets • $20-$67 (with seniors/Summit County discounts), at 435 655-3114 or ecclescenter.org.