UC BERKELEY TO HOST AILEY DANCE CAMP; PROGRAM AIMED AT UNDERACHIEVING KIDS REINFORCES THE LINK BETWEEN ART, DISCIPLINE

A six-week dance camp created by the internationally acclaimed Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will be brought to the West Coast for the first time.

Hosted by Cal Performances, the program targets underachieving students whose academic performance would benefit from the artistic regimen. The UC Berkeley locale would make this the first AileyCamp on a major university campus.

On Wednesday, award-winning performer and Berkeley Hills resident Rita Moreno presided over the formal announcement. Also on hand were artistic director Judy Jamison and Cal Performances director Robert Cole.

Seventy-five students ages 11-14 will be recruited from Berkeley and Oakland schools to attend the tuition-free camp, which runs June 24 through Aug. 2.

Aside from its New York base, the dance troupe has done more performances at Zellerbach Hall than any other venue. Their annual visits attract a Bay Area audience of about 17,000. This long relationship between the dance company and Cal Performances helped to bring this venture to California.

AileyCamps operate in New York, Kansas Cities (Missouri and Kansas), Boston, Chicago and Bridgeport. The coursework combines three dance disciplines — ballet, modern and Afro-Latin — as well as classes in creative communication and personal development. The latter extends over subject matters from drug abuse prevention to conflict resolution to goal setting. All supplies, transportation and two meals are provided to enrolled students.

“Many, many kids go on to be successful, not necessarily successful dancers but successful people,” says Cole, who had talked about such a program with Ailey before he died in 1989. While Cal Performances’ education outreach includes school shows, the camp will be its first extended program. Funding from the Hewlett Foundation will allow the camp to operate for three years.

Budget cutbacks have contributed to a downslide of arts education at many schools. At the same time, educational experts, including the National Endowment of the Arts and U.S. Department of Education, have long decried the state of arts learning and have issued studies on its importance for children.

“Kids don’t have this in school, they don’t have anything like this,” Cole says. One link that AileyCamp reinforces is between art and discipline. Also, having the program at a university expands the possibilities of higher education for young students who might never have considered it.

“Berkeley is a pretty diverse place,” adds Cal Performances public relations manager Lisle Peterson. “They’ll see how (the campus) integrates into the community.”

The six-week course will culminate in a Zellerbach Hall performance 7 p.m. Aug. 1.

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