Alvin Ailey dancer returns to hometown

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Carol Sorgen

A scene from the dance “Awakening,” Robert Battle’s first new piece since becoming artistic director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. The dramatic number is one of several being performed in a Baltimore premiere April 26 and 27.
Photo by Paul Kolnik

When Jacqueline Green appears in Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Baltimore engagement at the Lyric on April 26 and 27, the young dancer will be coming home to be greeted by family and friends — and new audiences.

Green, who is 26 and grew up near the Alameda in Baltimore, was a self-described tomboy — “running around outside throwing sticks” — when she auditioned for the Baltimore School of the Arts.

“I was one of five children, and my mother wanted us all to go to college,” said Green, speaking between rehearsals during the company’s national tour. (Baltimore will be the 16th of 20 engagements.) “She heard that BSA had a good track record of getting their students into college, and she thought I should audition.”

Started dancing as a teen

Just 13 at the time, Green had never before taken a dance class, “but I was flexible and a ‘busy body,’ always running around the house.” In fact, the first time she put on a leotard and tights and attended a ballet class was for her audition.

“It was weird,” Green laughed, recalling that her shy teenage self was less than comfortable in the new setting. Despite her inexperience, she was accepted into the school and began her dance training under the direction of Norma Pera, Deborah Robinson and Anton Wilson.

She went on to graduate from the Ailey/Fordham B.F.A. Program in Dance, and received the Martha Hill Fund’s Young Professional Award and the Dizzy Feet Scholarship.

Green began her professional career as a member of Ailey II (made up of young dancers working with emerging choreographers), and joined the main company in 2011.

Green credits dance with helping her express herself, develop self-confidence and positive self-esteem, and make new friends. “It gave me a different world from the one I had known,” she said.

Now making her home in New York, Green still visits Baltimore often. She arranges her visits around the company’s busy performance schedule, which includes two New York “seasons,” a national tour, and an international tour (this year, the company will perform throughout Great Britain).

Premiere performances

The repertoire for the Baltimore performances will include hip-hop choreographer Rennie Harris’ new work “Exodus” (hailed as “arresting…a miraculous conversion,” by the Financial Times) and “Awakening,” Robert Battle’s first new piece since becoming artistic director of the company. The New York Times says Battle “has injected the company with new life.”

On April 26, the Company will also perform a new production of the classic, “Cry,” the woman’s solo created by Ailey for “black women everywhere, especially our mothers,” made famous by Judith Jamison in the 1970s, as well as the perennial favorite, “Revelations,” the most popular and critically acclaimed work of Ailey’s.

Green will be performing in both pieces. “Revelations” is the work that inspired her to join the company. “I saw it when I was in college and kept going back again and again,” she said. She will be performing the role of “woman with the umbrella,” to the song, “Wade in the Water.”

And her performance in “Cry” will be an emotional moment for her. “My mother will be in the audience, and this will be the first time she will see me perform in this dance,” said Green.

“I’m honored — and a bit overwhelmed — to be chosen for this role and to perform it in my hometown in front of my mother. I know it’s going to be demanding, both physically and emotionally.”

The repertoire for April 27 features Ronald K. Brown’s Cuban-influenced world premiere “Open Door,” which is set to the vibrant music of Arturo O’Farrill & the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra’s latest album, “Cuba: The Conversation Continues.”

The company premiere of Paul Taylor’s “Piazzolla Caldera” takes place in a smoky tango club, and is “a sizzling addition to the Ailey repertory,” according to The New York Times. Also included will be the dreamlike “After the Rain Pas de Deux” by Christopher Wheeldon, and an encore of “Revelations.”

Green’s plans for her post-dancing life include a career in social work where she can have a long-term influence on people. For now, though, she knows that “every night for two hours, I can touch somebody’s life.”

Performances for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater begin both evenings at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range from $30.50 to $70.50 and can be purchased at the Lyric box office (10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Tuesday-Friday, 140 W. Mt. Royal Ave.), online at www.ticketmaster.com, or by calling (410) 547-SEAT.