Daisha Graf and Alicia Graf Mack Share Their D(n)A with Local Dancers on May 17th in Columbia, MD

Sisters Daisha Mack and Alicia Graf Mack, co-creators of D(n)A Arts, will host The D(n)A Xperience, which aims to draw aspiring dancers from across the region. They have achieved extraordinary success with their workshops in New York City and are embarking upon their first national tour. The first stop is Columbia, MD at the Ballet Royale Institute of Maryland where both sisters trained as young girls. Led by the Graf sisters and an impressive roster of celebrity teachers, students will experience an inspiring and dynamic day of dance this Sunday, May 17th. The intensive is designed to challenge young artists to diversify their skills and reach beyond their wildest dreams.


The D(n)A Xperience will feature both Graf sisters, who are Columbia, MD natives, and DC’s own Renee Robinson who performed with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater for an impressive 35 years and is a recipient of the prestigious Dance Magazine Award. Commercial dancer and choreographer, Mishay Petronelli will also join the sisters to teach in the workshop.

It has been a joy to write about Alicia since Arthur Mitchell first caught a glimpse of her talent when she was a teenager at Centennial High School in Ellicott City. Her professional performance resume is long and impressive beginning with the Dance Theater of Harlem where she attracted accolades from The New York Times. Alvin Ailey fans grew to appreciate her talent from the gigantic posters all over New York City with her signature move that consists of holding one leg stretched toward the ceiling while remaining solidly balanced. Few dancers can jump higher, turn faster, or perform with as much shading and intelligence.  

One of D(n)A Arts’ primary goals is to support dancers as they navigate the transition from student to professional artist. To that end, D(n)A will host a panel discussion featuring major artists and choreographers as well as teachers, agents and administrators in the arts and entertainment industry. In past years, panelists included: Misty Copeland, Matthew Rushing, Ebony Williams, Antonio and Kirven Douthit-Boyd, Torya Beard, Renee Robinson and Julianna Lichtman, among others.

 “What Alicia and Daisha are doing for the dance community is creating a true community, for exploring, being vulnerable and learning in that incredibly supportive space. I was honored to be a part of last year’s panel,” said Misty Copeland, soloist for American Ballet Theatre.

Former panelist, Antonio Douthit-Bo​yd of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, shared this: “Being on a panel with artists I have looked up to, and finding that we all have overcome so many obstacles to get to where we are now was such an amazing treat. Knowing that our stories can help other young artists reach their goals was such a satisfying feeling.”

D(n)A Arts alumni have become apprentices for Ailey II and Urban Bush Women, another student starred in Debbie Allen’s Brothers of the Knight, and another student starred in the Las Vegas showgirl production, Jubilee!

We recently caught up with Daisha (MBK/Sony Red recording artist, professional commercial dancer and co-creator of D(n)A Arts) and Alicia in Columbia when Alicia brought her darling baby boy to visit family and friends.

Please comment on your D(n)A program, and how it began.

Alicia: Daisha and I had both been living in New York City and thriving in our own circles of dance. She worked as a commercial dancer performing with many famous recording artists, and I thrived as a concert dancer. We would walk down the street and young dancers would come up to us to take pictures and ask questions about how we ‘made it’ in the dance scene. We felt we were obligated to reach more young people and inspire them to conquer their dreams. We are committed to giving aspiring artists more information about the professional world.

How do you feel when you teach?

Alicia: As a teacher, there is no greater feeling than experiencing a student who is growing and improving. I am not very concerned with creating extraordinary dancers, but helping to build extraordinary people…the talent will take care of the rest.

Daisha: We are building a D(n)A Arts family and care about what happens to each and every student.

Can you spot talent? How do you reach dancers who may never have the chance that you and your sister had?

Alicia: Becoming a dancer is all about access to good training and exposure to the professional world. It is also about inspiration. I have come to appreciate the gift of teaching. It is not easy to grow a dancer. I try to emulate my teacher, Donna Pidel. She is so passionate about training her students. That love is reciprocated. Yes, I believe I have an eye for talent. When looking at a large group of dancers it is usually clear who has that special movement quality or who clan create magic on stage. This has nothing to do with look or body type but everything to do with spirit, talent and a certain intangible quality that makes a dancer shine.

Daisha Mack and Alisha Graf Mack lead The D(n)A Xperience at Ballet Royale Institute of Maryland – 9147 Red Branch Road Suite 4D, in Columbia, MD on Sunday, May 17, from 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. The workshop is open to Ages 11-15 (Intermediate/Advanced) and 16-Adult  (Intermediate/ Advanced) . The registration fee is $125 (includes all classes and lunch). Scholarships are available. For more information about D(n)A Arts, visit here.

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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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