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VOL 3. NO. 18 Monday, October 25 - Sunday, November 6, 2004
Linda-Denise Evans: Area Dancer Part of the Alvin Ailey Legacy
By Avonie BROWN

(L-R) Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Company members Renee Robinson, Dwana Smallwood, Linda Caceres, Linda-Denise Evans and Lynn Barre. Photo by Andrew Eccles

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 genius."

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.

Tuesday, May 15 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, May 19 at 8 p.m.
  • Night Creature - Ailey/Ellington
  • Chocolate Sessions - Rhoden/Scott
  • Following the Subtle Current Upstream - King/Hussain, Frasconi and Rose
  • Revelations - Ailey/Traditional
    Wednesday, May 16 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, May 19 at 2 p.m.
    • Phases - Ailey/Various
    • Double Exposure - Jamison/Ruggieri
    • Grace - Brown/Various
    Thursday, May 17 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, May 20 at 2 p.m.
    • Night Creature - Ailey/Ellington
    • Sweet Bitter Love - de Lavallade/Various
    • Following the Subtle Current Upstream - King/Hussain, Frasconi and Rose
    • Revelations - Ailey/Traditional
    Friday, May 18 at 8 p.m.
    • Blues Suite - Ailey/Traditional
    • Cry - Ailey/Coltrane, Nyro, and Griffin
    • The River - Ailey/Ellington
    • Revelations - Ailey/Traditional
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