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Troy Powell: Ailey II's new artistic director makes NY debut

CHARMAINE PATRICIA WARREN Special to AmNews | 3/18/2013, 12:32 p.m.

I chose a very diverse group of choreographers because I wanted the dancers to have a different point of view. Malcolm [Lowe] embodied the choreographer that was experimental. I saw his work in the "New Direction's Choreographer's Lab" created by Robert Battle, and I enjoyed it. I said to him, "Wow, that was great. I'm interested in you doing something of this nature on Ailey II." But when he saw the dancers he said, "That piece was for students and these are not students." That says something about them and the piece. They adapted to his way of moving quickly.

AmNews: Benoit Swan-Pouffer is also someone whom you danced with at Ailey.

Sylvia and I had been talking about this for years, but back then I wasn't the one making the top notch decisions (laughs). I wanted to bring in someone more established, someone who had a company. We had dinner together and I said, "I want that type of work on Ailey II; I want someone to push them." He came in and went on fast-forward. He challenged the dancers and again I said, "Wow, who are these people?"

AmNews: And Amy Hall Garner?

I went out on a limb with her. What I really liked about Amy was her work as rehearsal assistant to Darrell Moultrie and her connection with the dancers. She can truly talk to them about how to present themselves as men and women, artists, young professionals, someone who is bigger than you are. Her piece is very energetic and its jazzy style brought their individual personalities out.

This year, when people say, "What did you gain from these three choreographers?," I think it was something that I'd always wanted, something that Sylvia has always encouraged, and I'm sure Mr. Ailey also--that's how to be an individual. And they have all done that.

AmNews: There are older works in the second program.

Yes! [Mr. Ailey's] work is so important. I wanted to bring his work back because a lot of people were missing that. Also, Ms. Jamison's "Diving" was choreographed way before some of the dancers were born, and it was one of her first pieces. A lot of the dancers had seen ["External Knot"] and wanted to do it, and I also wanted a piece of mine on the program. "External Knot" is sort of a story about my journey as a person. It's a work that I feel close to, and I think [it] is one of my best.

AmNews: Are there new members?

There are seven new dancers, plus my stage manager, technical lighting director and rehearsal director. Everything was new! (laughs)

AmNews: Is that good?

I think it was good. I wanted to start out fresh.

AmNews: Are you having a good time?

One of the things that I said to myself over and over was "Troy, you have to have fun," so I made an executive decision to have fun.

For more information, visit www.alvinailey.org/AileyII or call 866-811-4111.