Undergraduate and alumni dancers reunite in New York City for student performances

The Repertory Dance Company danced in the historic Alvin Ailey Theater

Mary Pace Lewis dances onstage at the Alvin Ailey Theater. Photo by Elliot Emadian.

Mary Pace Lewis dances onstage at the Alvin Ailey Theater. Photo by Elliot Emadian.

Mary Alice Russell

Undergraduate students and alumni danced together in the Alvin Ailey Theatre in New York City from January 31 to February 2.

Every two years, Washington and Lee’s Repertory Dance Company performs with alumni in New York City. Students who attended the trip said they see it as a once and a lifetime opportunity.

“It was awesome to see alumni I danced with last year again and to have the opportunity to meet alumni that graduated before I came to Washington and Lee,” Ashley Shugart, ‘22, said.  “Having the chance to perform in the Alvin Ailey Theatre was definitely a highlight of the experience.”

The Alvin Ailey Theater was founded in 1958 by Ailey to celebrate black culture through dance. In 1962, Ailey opened the all-black dance company to dancers of other races.

Shugart was one of the several students who choreographed an original dance for the trip.

All of the dances in the show were choreographed by students or alums. Most of the alumni that participated are now in graduate school, but still dedicate time to dancing.

The three student-directed pieces were also performed in the fall 2019 dance show. The dancers rehearsed the dances for about an hour each week to prepare for the show.

Despite the hours of practice before arriving in New York, the students were only able to rehearse for a few hours in the Alvin Ailey building on Saturday. They performed on Sunday for a small audience of alumi and other supporters of the university.

Carissa Margraf, ’21, who co-choreographed one of the dances with Runa King, ’21, said she enjoyed performing for alumni.

“It was a cool setting to have a low-pressure performance in,” Margraf said.

The dancers were in the city for four days and had plenty of time for sight-seeing. Students listed the Museum of Modern Art and the Starbucks Reserve as some of their favorite tourist stops.

Alumni who graduated between 2010 and 2018 joined undergraduate dancers for the weekend. Photo courtesy of Jenefer Davies.

Margraf, who was visiting and dancing with the company in New York for the second time, said that her experience in one of the largest Starbucks in the world was thrilling and delicious.

“It smelled like heaven in there,” she said.

Other than rehearsal time, the only required activity was attending a preview performance of the Broadway musical “West Side Story.”

Margraf said that she found the musical very intriguing because of revolutionary uses of live filming in the show. While there were performers on the stage, there were video cameras capturing angles and places that were inaccessible to the audience otherwise.

The dancers stayed in a hotel called The Jane, which housed survivors of the Titanic while the crash was being investigated. The students stayed in rooms that looked like the interior of a ship, complete with bunk beds.

Though a few of the students who went on this trip will no longer be able to participate as undergraduate students, they are already planning on choreographing an alumni piece for 2022.