New Ailey II Artistic Director Francesca Harper/Nina Wurtzel Photo

The iconic Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, long renowned as the repository of African-American artistic expression in contemporary dance, has named a new artistic director for its Ailey II company. Stepping into this important role guiding emerging young dancers, choreographers, and artists, is Francesca Harper, a highly accomplished dancer and choreographer in her own right. Harper’s appointment to this top position comes in the wake of her predecessor’s departure under a cloud, and signals a new beginning for the fabled New York City institution.

The Ailey School, many of whose students perform as part of Ailey II, draws dancers from all over the globe, who seek to elevate themselves and their craft to the highest levels possible. Ailey II is a visible manifestation of the late Alvin Ailey’s, dreams of reshaping Black popular culture through the medium of dance. Ailey, a Black, gay man whose artistic genius did indeed spark a creative revolution in his chosen field, looked to young dancers as the bearers of his craft. To this day, legions of other LGBTQ people of color have followed in Ailey’s footsteps at the school he founded, alongside young men and women from every country and society in the world.

Courtesy Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Harper, whose achievements encompass her choreographic work Dark Violet, Light Stone, Nick Cave’s award-winning The Let Go, and choreographing the critically acclaimed Rose’s War, knew Ailey personally, and is excited to be directing Ailey II. Robert Battle, overall Artistic Director for Ailey American Dance Theater, enthusiastically hailed Harper’s arrival. “We are thrilled, and deeply proud, to be appointing the multi-talented Francesca Harper to lead Ailey II,” Battle stated. “Her vision for Ailey II will not only bring fresh perspectives to Mr. Ailey’s legacy, but also bring new voices to the stage and propel the Company forward. She is the perfect choice to lead Ailey II.”

Harper sees her appointment to Ailey II as a triumphal return to the legacy her old friend brought into being. “I feel I grew up at The Ailey School, and now, having performed and choreographed around the world, it is profoundly moving to me to come home, accepting the great privilege of leading Ailey II,” the multidisciplinary artist rhapsodized. Ailey II, which was founded 47 years ago as the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble, enjoys a rich history as the nursing ground for new talent, setting countless dance artists off on the start of their creative journeys. Its demanding but enriching training curriculum is known for bringing out the best in its pupils, and Ailey II engages in a far-ranging schedule of road performances every year, showcasing the work of artist, choreographer, and director alike. You can discover more about Ailey II and its ongoing works here. A new day has dawned for the school and its venerable dance companies, and Harper is ready to make the most of her time in the sun, as only Ailey can make it shine.

Twitter: @RealNathanJames