Dancing with Waters

by Lingbo Li

Dance teacher Sylvia Waters stands in front of nearly 30 undergrads, clad in black pants, a slate sweater, and a patterned headscarf.
"She's very specific about what she wants," student Whitney Fitts '12 says of Waters. "She's very knowledgeable about everything that goes behind the choreography. It's very rare you work with someone who really knew the choreographer."That choreographer is modern dance legend Alvin Ailey, and Waters is not just any dance teacher - her history is deeply entwined with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, which began in 1958 in New York City. In 1974, it was Waters who became director of Ailey II, a touring company for younger dancers. For the 27 students in DA 123: The Ailey Legacy, this is a unique opportunity to learn the history behind their movements.

DA 123 is a for-credit class that meets twice a week, with Waters teaching the Tuesday dance and lecture portion, and former Alvin Ailey dancer Elizabeth Roxas-Dobrish instructing a Thursday class.During the Tuesday class, Waters corrected students on their stances and reminded them to dip all the way down to draw out a semi-circle with their arms. It's a far cry from lectures or written tests, which Larissa Koch, the TF for the class, calls a strength. "As a very prestigious school, the course material plays very heavily in the cerebral section," she says.In DA 123, Koch adds, "the vast majority of the knowledge you acquire is a kinesthetic knowledge, a codified technique. It's like a language. For Harvard, that's huge."

[Caption: Sylvia Waters Photo:Eduardo Patino]

[Caption: Sylvia Waters and Dudley Williams in Steve Sarnasado's "Metallics" Photo by Fehl]