Alicia Graf Mack: Dancing with Ailey American Dance Theater at The Lyric by Carolyn Kelemen

Alicia’s talent just keeps growing by leaps and bounds.

The phones have been ringing off the hooks with callers wanting to know which shows Columbia’s sweetheart ballerina, Alicia Graf Mack, will be dancing when the Ailey American Dance Theater stops in Baltimore May 22 and 23. In an e-mail message from Harlem’s Apollo Theater where the company is performing a gala benefit this weekend, Alicia (who has received raves all over the world) writes a resounding, “Both shows…I am dancing in Takademe and “Fix Me” from Revelations on Wednesday evening and Home on Tuesday. For those who might have missed the company at the Kennedy Center or want to be thrilled again, take note. Tickets are selling quickly.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Alicia Graf Mack in Alvin Ailey’s ‘Streams.’ Photo by Andrew Eccles.

Alicia Graf Mack (she was married in 2010) generally dances in every show that includes “Revelations” where she stands out among other stunning ladies, all strutting on stage in Ailey’s tribute to his black heritage and strong religious fervor in the Texas bible belt. However, the tall, lithe ballerina – yes, her pointed toes will always be a part of her technique – can dance virtually anything. In Baltimore, she is featured in Home with moves from the street and the clubs. Rennie Harris choreographed this work to commemorate World AIDS Day and in memory of Ailey who created the company over 50 years ago. Newly-appointed director has choreographed a work with Alicia in mind, and, definitely, some of those super-athletic guys. Takademe showcases the dancers’ bravura technique with its high-flying movement set to Indian Kathak dance rhythms.

Alicia can do astonishing feats – classical ballet, modern spirals and falls, and her signature one leg stretched toward the ceiling while the other remains balanced for as long as she wants it to be there. Few dancers jump higher, turn faster, or perform with as much shading and intelligence. With her intricate footwork and statuesque poses, she reigns on the stage like a goddess. And she is loved not just for her amazing movements, but for the warmth and joy she radiates from the stage. Her photo landed on the front page of a New York Times article that described her, “a favorite of audiences and critics.” The current issue of Good Housekeeping features the dancer and her mom under the heading of “Inspiration.” How has the 31-year-old been holding up under all that media attention? “Reading good reviews has motivated me to work harder,” she explained in a recent telephone conversation. “I always put a lot of pressure on myself, and right now I have so much on my plate.”

Alicia Graf Mack. Photo by Andrew Eccles.

As if dancing and teaching master classes were not enough, the Columbia University honors graduate and recipient of a Masters Degree can also point to dance reviews she wrote for national publications. “I write from a dancer’s point of view,” Mack notes of the different discipline. “I use a different part of my brain. It’s also fun to see shows I’ve missed in the past.” It would be ironic if her job as dance reporter leads her to covering the career of her own 25-year-old sister, Dacia Graf, an up-and-coming triple threat, singer/dancer/actress.

While Alicia Graf Mack began her professional career with Dance Theatre of Harlem, it has been in the Alvin Ailey company that Alicia has really begun exuding the confidence and determination of a seasoned pro. No longer dancing on pointe, she seems to have found a new freedom of movement.

The most popular dance in the current tour is Revelations, the beloved work created by Alvin Ailey in 1960 that tells the story of African-American faith and tenacity from slavery to freedom through a suite of dances set to spirituals and blues. Alicia confides that it is the one piece she enjoys dancing more than any other due to its special meaning for her. “I like that it is spiritual in content. That connection inspires me every time I dance it.”

Alicia Graf dancing in ‘Memoria.’ Photo by Andrew Eccles.

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performs at the Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric Tuesday and Wednesday, May 22 and 23 at 7:30 p.m. Check for a master class on Monday when the company rolls into town. Performance tickets ($20 to $80) are scarce. Call (410) 547-SEAT, or order your tickets online.

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Carolyn Kelemen
Carolyn Kelemen is an award-winning arts critic and feature writer for the Baltimore Sun, Howard County Times, and Columbia Flier - 45 years and counting. The Columbia resident earned her Masters Degree in Dance at Mills College in California and has taught college and graduate courses at Goucher College, Loyola, the College of Notre Dame and Howard Community College. A professional dancer throughout the East Coast in the late 50s and early 60s, she was trained in classical ballet, modern dance, jazz and tap. Her TV/film career includes MPT’s “ weeknight Alive” and years of local productions in the Maryland/DC area. Carolyn is a longtime member of the Dance Critics of America, the American Theatre Critics Association. She has proudly produced the “A Labor of Love” AIDS benefits since 1988.


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