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Ailey II: Legacy Shaping the Future of Dance

Posted March 2, 2022

Get to know Francesca Harper and how her deep understanding of the Ailey legacy influences her work with Ailey II.


Ailey II Artistic Director Francesca Harper follows in the footsteps of the strong Black women that came before her, including Ailey II’s first Artistic Director Sylvia Waters and the late Denise Jefferson, who was Director of the Ailey School for many years. Ms. Harper is what many would call an “Ailey baby,” because she grew up within the organization. As a student in The Ailey School and the daughter of Denise Jefferson, she was part of Ailey’s history way before leading Ailey II.

Before she made her way back to Ailey, Ms. Harper went on her own artistic journey. One of the most transformative accomplishments of her career was dancing for William Forsythe. Today, she brings that connection to the Ailey II repertory with the addition of his piece Enemy in the Figure, which they’re performing while on tour and during the upcoming New York City season. Check out the above video (created by Ms. Harper) to learn how Mr. Forsythe influenced Ms. Harper’s creative process and how she shares her knowledge with the Ailey II dancers. You’ll also hear about this process from the dancers themselves and see them hard at work in the studio. Watch on YouTube