Sylvia Waters was a dancer with the company and someone who Aily believed could, as he often put it, help young performers make the grand ja-tay from the classroom to the big stage. The rest is history.
"Change is refreshing. Change is renewing," Waters said.
Right now, change is so much a part of her life.
"I just keep saying to retire is not to explore. People always ask you, 'Are you resting? Are you putting your feet up?' I said, 'Are you kidding? That's not what it's all about,'" Waters said.
Alvin Ailey has been her home for nearly four decades. In 1974, Ailey asked Waters, who was already part of his company, to take over what at that time was a fledgling workshop. She reluctantly accepted.
"It was daunting at first. It was scary. It really was, all those temperaments and personalities," she said.
She remembers Ailey telling her she must find her own voice in all of this. She did and never looked back. As artistic director of Ailey II, a program for dancers in training, Waters grooms young performers. Two-thirds end up dancing with the main company.
"It's always a delicious groove to see young artists grow, to see them eager and hungry for this," Waters said.
People like Fana Tesfagiorgis, who says Waters teaches them to think about dance in a different way.
"She's always asking where's the source of this movement? What's initiating that? Where's that coming from? It has to come from somewhere inside of you," Tesfagiorgis said.
So with a sense of anticipation and nostalgia, waters' steps down June 30th, although she will remain active with the Ailey organization.
"I'll still be watching, I'll still be lurking around," Waters said.
Waters will soon head up a new lecture, technique and repertory program for college students. She has named Troy Powell, a veteran Ailey dancer, teacher and choreographer, to be the new artistic director of Ailey II.
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