Backtalk with Judith Jamison

Trailblazing choreographer discusses her barrier-breaking career

Today, a lot of young people’s only exposure to dance is through popular rap songs. Are young kids really interested in learning modern dance forms?
Are you kidding?  We now have 11 camps for young people. The first one started out in Kansas City, Missouri. The last one opened in Miami. We were doing our normal performances at the theatre center in Miami and the next thing we know we were getting calls saying we want an Ailey camp too. That’s how the idea has touched people. We have 26,500 people registered for our classes. We take them young or old, and teach them everything from salsa to Zumba. Our youngest students start in the Tiny Steps program at 2 years old and our oldest student is 85.

Hip-hop has spearheaded a lot of new trends. Do you consider this dance?
If you’re moving, you’re dancing. There are so many different ways to move. But I must say that dance is one of the most difficult things to accomplish. You have to become a conduit of spirit. When you leave the theater it’s not that you’ve seen someone do all these jumps, turns, splits, and spins, but you’re left with something that is indelible in your memory and in your heart and in your spirit. Anybody can get out there and do all that other stuff.

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  • Dawn Willingham

    Excellent story! I love it so much!!!!!!!

  • s.digioia

    this was an excellent story. it was very informative. i enjoyed reading it.