By Janice Malone
The Internationally acclaimed Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will perform a two-evening engagement at TPAC Feb. 28-29. The Company is in the midst of a 21-city tour. The Nashville performances include the acclaimed American Masterpiece Revelations, along with premieres of three distinct dance works: The Call, EN and Lazarus. Ailey’s Revelations has been seen by more audiences around the world than any modern work since its creation in 1960.
The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has performed for an estimated 25 million people in 71 countries on six continents – as well as millions more through television broadcasts, film screenings, and online platforms. It has also been recognized by a U.S. Congressional resolution as a vital American “Cultural Ambassador to the World.” Artistic Director Robert Battle leads Ailey’s 32 extraordinary dancers as they continue the Company’s legacy of using the African American cultural experience and modern American dances.
One of the dancers who will be gracing the TPAC stage is multi-talented Constance Stamatiou. She will be performing Rennie Harris’ Lazarus, two different roles in Revelations, plus Cry (which is even more poignant from her perspective as a mother). Constance recently shared with the Tribune by phone her thoughts about performing the tour-de-force solo Cry, which is dedicated to all Black women everywhere – especially mothers. “Since I’m now a mom of two, performing this piece just means a lot to me,” she said. “There’s just so many emotions that come with that title. It makes me feel quite emotional. I feel like I didn’t really know what true love was until I had my kids. Performing this dance, you have to be vulnerable, and be able to pull from certain experiences in your life. Performing this dance piece takes so much out of me emotionally, but yet it’s so beautiful, and when it’s all finished it gives me so much joy and exhilaration.”
Growing up in Charlotte, North Carolina, Constance reveals her mom had aspirations to be a dancer, but lacked the resources to pursue it. But both of Constance’s parents recognized her talent for dance early, and got her into both dance and gymnastics classes. “I studied both dance and gymnastics,” Constance added. “One of my teachers asked me if I wanted to pursue the life as a dancer or become a gymnast? I could see where dancing, performing and traveling all over the world seemed a lot more intriguing than becoming a gymnastics coach, so I stuck with dancing.” She recalls later watching a PBS special about Alvin Ailey’s life that initially got her interested in learning more about the legendary dance company.
She later graduated from NorthWest School of the Arts and studied at SUNY Purchase. Then she became a fellowship student at The Ailey School and later joined Ailey II. She recalled her first visit to the acclaimed Ailey School: “When I first got there, I was just amazed. I saw all of these talented kids and teachers from all over the country who looked like me! Not to mention the rich history and legacy of the great Mr. Alvin Ailey. I’ve always known about dance, but when I saw my first performance from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, I knew this was where I belonged.” After much studying and hard work, she was hired directly by the acclaimed Ailey artistic director-emerita Judith Jamison in 2007. Last year Constance was selected to be part of the legendary Ms. Jamison’s Ted Talk, where she and other dancers performed excerpts of Alvin Ailey’s Revelations. “Being a part of Ms. Jamison’s TED Talk was just an amazing experience,” Constance remembered. “To not only hear her speak about her experiences about working directly with Alvin Ailey, but also what it was like growing up as a long, tall, beautiful black ballerina who grew up to become this famous dancer that’s known around the world. Her story is just so intriguing.”
Constance has become at home in the media as well as on the dance stage. She’s been featured in The New York Times, Shape.com, Essence and Glamour magazines. In addition to continuing to dance, she also has an interest in doing choreography for films.