Thursday, July 5, 2007
Student spends summer at Alvin Ailey dance program
Kendra Dennard and a few other students from Oakland University’s Department of Music, Theatre and Dance, decided to audition for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre’s Summer Intensive Program just to see how they would do. Dennard never expected to be accepted into the prestigious program and was very excited when she learned she was accepted. Dennard’s excitement turned into a flurry of activity as she put together a showcase to raise funds to spend the summer dancing in New York. Thanks to the support of those around her, Dennard arrived in New York and is now using the Alvin Ailey experience to improve her dancing and bring that back to Oakland University.
“I auditioned just to see what would happen and then I got in. I dedicated every minute after that to finding the money to cover tuition and spend the summer here,” said Dennard from New York, where she started the summer program on June 25.
Dennard works at a local mall and teaches hip-hop classes at a Detroit high school, but she still needed to raise the money for the $2,200 tuition. She decided to enlist some of her dancer friends and other performers she knew to participate in a fundraising showcase on June 20.
“By the time I came to the conclusion that I was actually going to go to the summer program, I had three weeks to put a showcase together,” Dennard said. “I didn’t have time to make fliers or advertise and I made all of the phone calls in my car as I drove between jobs.”
Dennard set up her own venue and ordered chairs, which she paid for out of her own pocket. Toni’s Dance Company, a dance group Dennard has been a part of, helped sponsor the showcase. Dennard was nervous that no one would show up for the showcase, but when she took the stage and saw more than 75 people in the room, she was relieved.
“Every seat was full. I was really excited to see so many people there. I really poured my entire life into preparing for the showcase when I needed to be in classes and conditioning my body,” Dennard said. “But without the funding, I wouldn’t have been going, so I knew the showcase was really important.”
The showcase, along with a raffle that Dennard also organized, raised $700 toward her tuition costs. She plans to transfer to a store in New York and work while she is there to help cover any other expenses.
Dennard is thrilled with the education she is getting at the Alvin Ailey Summer Intensive program. During the seven-week session, students will take about 15 technique classes per week in addition to any workshops they choose to attend. Dennard said the first week is devoted to class placement and the program coordinators meet with each student to go over where they stand and what they need to improve on, something Dennard said is a rarity in programs like this.
A dancer since the age of six, Dennard will enter her sophomore year when she returns to Oakland University in the fall. She came to OU on a dance scholarship after the university was recommended to her by a friend and OU alumnus.
“I heard great things about OU’s program. I find a lot of value in the way they run the classes and teach the students,” Dennard said.
The Alvin Ailey summer program is in Manhattan and Dennard hasn’t spent enough time in New York in the past to know much about the city. She is excited to learn more about the city while working on her dance technique.
“I love modern dance and I love ballet. It’s the core of all dance,” said Dennard. “I hope to mature my dancing tremendously while I’m here. I plan to condition my body to take a lot of pounding and be way more advanced and be able to do any rigorous program at the drop of a dime.”
Dennard said part of dance is learning how to use the body correctly and she is going to take the opportunity to learn to use her body correctly to avoid injuries and wear on her limbs and joints.
Once Dennard returns to Michigan, she hopes to look at doing an even bigger showcase next year and using it to establish a scholarship for other college students who want to participate in programs like the Alvin Ailey Summer Intensive.