Leaping toward a brighter future
Berkeley will host summer ‘AileyCamp’ for at-risk youth

By D. Lyn Hunter, Public Affairs


Rita Moreno, left, and Judith Jamison review a book of art and poetry about Alvin Ailey’s dance company compiled by students at Oakland’s Prescott and Marcus Foster Elementary Schools. The two were on campus Feb. 20 to announce the launch of the campus’s Summer 2002 AileyCamp.
Peg Skorpinski photo

27 February 2002 | An acclaimed arts program for at-risk youth will make its West Coast debut at Berkeley this summer, performing arts legends Rita Moreno and Judith Jamison announced last week on campus.

Seventy-five middle-school children from Berkeley and Oakland will come to “AileyCamp” — a six-week program, founded by dance great Alvin Ailey, that helps young people develop critical life skills through instruction in ballet, modern, jazz and West African dance.

AileyCamp targets at-risk students, ages 11 to 14, who show a potential to improve their academic performance through engagement in the arts. Camp instructors use dance to help improve students’ self-esteem, discipline, creative expression and critical thinking.

“This camp imposes a sense of future for these children,” said Moreno, a life-long dancer who won an Oscar for her role in “West Side Story.” “It will help them believe in their uniqueness and value.”

Tuition for the camp — funded by private and corporate donors — is free for participants. Students receive instruction, breakfast and lunch, shoes, leotards and field trips.

“This will enhance their lives in ways that are too numerous to count,” Moreno said. “The investment is profound, but the returns are huge.”

In addition to dance instruction, students take writing, photography and studio art classes and receive counseling in nutrition, conflict resolution, drug abuse prevention, decision-making and goal setting.

The camp — co-sponsored by Cal Performances and the Berkeley and Oakland Unified School Districts — culminates with a performance Aug. 1 in Zellerbach Hall.

AileyCamp has already been introduced, with great success, in six cities in the East and Midwest.

By the time the camp is finished, “the spirit of expression has filled their brains and hearts,” said Jamison, artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. “This energy is often transferred to their families, motivating them to make improvements in their lives as well.

“The camp shows them the possibility of positive future,” she said. “It is a gift that they will treasure for rest of their lives.”

For information about Berkeley’s AileyCamp, call 642-7087.


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