|Linda-Denise Evans admits that her dance career has far exceeded the dreams
she initially held. "When I began dance in high school I dreamed only of
dancing for music videos because that's all I knew. But after taking a field
trip to Lyric Theater to see the Alvin Ailey company perform, everything
changed for me." The Baltimore native, said that the world literally opened
up for her and for the first time she realized that the world of dance was
vast and much more was possible. "It was the first time that I had seen so
many black people perform dance on the same stage and I was in awe. I
couldn't even dream then of one day dancing with the company. Back then it
was truly an unattainable goal, or so I thought," Evan said.
With that seed planted, Evans' dance career took root. She trained at the
Baltimore School for the Arts with Sylvester Campbell and Stephanie Powell.
She even received a scholarship to study at The Ailey School, where she said
she had an opportunity at 16 to meet Ailey. "He was such a creative spirit
that just being in his presence was awe-inspiring. He was very approachable
and would even allow us to watch rehearsals of the company on occasion, or
even stop by our classes. At that age I was just mesmerized by the man's
After completing the Juilliard School Evans performed with the Capitol Ballet
and joined the Hubbard Street Dance Chicago 1989. But that stint ended in
1992 when she was accepted into the Ailey Company. And getting in was no easy
feat. Evans had to endure a grueling three-hour audition and compete against
200 other dancers for the one available spot. "The audition was very tough.
You had to show her (Ms. Jamison) what you got, your technique and your
musicality," shared Evans. "And after three hours I was exhausted physically
and emotionally and convinced that I could have done much better." So when
she was informed that she had made the company, Evans said she was numb for a
week. "I called my mother to let her know but I just had this blank steer on
my face. I just couldn't believe it. It truly took about a week to sink in."
For 10 years now, Evans has added her own passion and creativity to extending
the legacy begun by Alvin Ailey in 1958. "It has completely enriched my
life," she admitted. "And I know that anything else I do after dancing,
whether it teaching dance or computer programming, is completely possible."
Evans said she has no immediate plans to leave the company, even though there
are no guarantees. You see each dancer receives a one-year contract with the
company. While some may choose to leave voluntarily after the year others
will have their contracts renewed if they maintain the company's performance
standards. Evans clearly has, and so too has DC native Renee Robinson, who
has been with the company for 20 years. "A dancers career is no longer
confined to a five or even a 10 year span. We have learned techniques that
are keeping us healthier and stronger for a much longer time," said Evans. If
you have ever seen an Ailey performance, you can appreciate the artistry and
the physicality required. Absolutely breath-taking.
Indeed, the name Alvin Ailey is synonymous with dance and in its 43-year
history the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has established itself as one
of the premiere dance companies in the world. Evans credits their continuing
success and critical and popular appeal to the creative vision of artistic
director Judith Jamison. "The continued quality of our performance is due to
Ms. Jamison, who strives to maintain the integrity of the work. She brings in
new choreographers to make sure that the program remains fresh and she
challenges us as dancers and insists that we meet that challenge. And we
always have to bring it," she said. Evans welcomes the challenge. "It is hard
work but because I absolutely love dancing I enjoy the process. If not I
would have to evaluate why I do what I do."
The company tours for approximately six months each year and when not on the
road Evans returns to Baltimore to her husband and seven-year-old daughter
and nine-year-old stepson. "When I return to Baltimore it is by no means down
time because my role as wife and mother takes over," she said. However, Evans
does get to indulge in some of her other passions - reading and gardening.
But dance is never far away as she can sometimes be found teaching classes
around town including her former high school.
For now, Evans is in full dance mode. Washington Performing Arts Society and
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts present the Alvin Ailey
American Dance Theater in the Kennedy Center Opera House May 15-20. The
engagement will feature works by Judith Jamison, Ronald K. Brown, Carmen de
Lavallade, Dwight Rhoden and Alonso King, as well as Ailey masterpieces
"Revelations," "The River" and "Cry." Tickets range from $25 to $65 and as
part of the Kennedy Center's ongoing education program, a free Performance
Plus(tm) discussion with the company will take place following the
performance on Wednesday, May 16, 2001. For more information or to order
tickets, call 202-467-4600 or 800-444-1324.