‘It changed my life’: Dance company crowdfunding to take 100 young black students to Sadler’s Wells show

Artistry Youth Dance group. Picture: Supplied

Artistry Youth Dance group. Picture: Supplied - Credit: Archant

An Old Street dance company needs to raise £1,600 so it can take 100 young black students to a “life-changing” performance at Sadler’s Wells Theatre.

Artistry Youth Dance group. Picture: Supplied

Artistry Youth Dance group. Picture: Supplied - Credit: Archant

Artistry Youth Dance (AYD) teaches performers of Afro-Caribbean descent, aged 14 to 24, and it wants to take 100 Islington youngsters to see a world-renowned New York group at the Rosebery Avenue theatre in September.

The City Road organisation was founded by dance teacher Kamara Gray, who wants to raise pupils' aspirations by taking them to watch Alvin Ailey Dance Company, an African-American modernist dance group, which congress has called a "vital cultural ambassador to the world".

"It's important for young people to have the opportunity to see live dance and theatre," said Kamara. "And to see themselves represented on the stage so they can aspire to achieve great things.

"I had a chance to go there and see them performing in New York - it changed my life.

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"I'd always done ballet as a child but never thought it was an option. It wasn't until I went to the school I realised it was really possible, so it changed my whole perception on dance and I want other people to have that opportunity. There's so many possibilities for [the students] and we want to support them."

She believes lack of representation in dance styles like ballet and contemporary. AYD claim the number of people going to watch dance performances in the UK annually is dwindling, and that this percentage is even lower among people of African and Caribbean descent.

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Karama, 39, set up AYD in 2013 with the aim of promoting diversity in dance and improving students' access to the arts.

The youth dance company works with a core cohort of 12 pupils a go once they pass an audition process, but runs other projects and workshops throughout the year.

It paid to take 15 youngsters to see Alvin Ailey dancers in 2017 but no wants to extend the experience to as many students as possible.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre first wowed a crowd at the 92 Street Y cultural centre, New York, in May 1958. It's gone on to perform for an estimated 25 million people.

You can support AYD's crowdfunding campaign here.

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