Dance Pathfinder Leads Artistic Direction at Ailey II

NEW YORK – She is a trailblazer in the world of ballet, now leading the next generation of performers at a dance theater in New York City.

Francesca Harper recently made her New York City debut as Artistic Director of Alvin Ailey II.

Harper is following in the footsteps of her late mother, Denise Jefferson. Her mother ran the Ailey School for approximately 26 years.

When Jefferson was a kid with dreams of being a ballerina, a teacher pointed out that color didn’t exist and she quit.

She later returned to dancing, but that story stuck with Harper.

“While I was studying in Ailey, it lived in the back of my mind, hmmm, what would it mean to be a trailblazer in the ballet world,” Harper said.

She later joined the Frankfurt Ballet.

Now in her new role, Harper appreciates guiding people like Breana Thompson, who has offered some advice to younger dancers.

“Be open to no’s, I’ve heard that a lot in my career, I’m just super open, super blessed,” Thompson said.

Harper will pay tribute to her mother and present a mix of new material at her upcoming performances, including Robert Battle’s work Searchlight.

“We have that Ailey tribute to the soulful nature, but sometimes a little bit of an edge that makes you a little uncomfortable here, let me find my way,” Harper said. Dance Pathfinder Leads Artistic Direction at Ailey II

Dais Johnston

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