Getting to Know Ailey II's Terri Ayanna Wright

Posted March 28, 2017

Joining Ailey II in the summer of 2015 helped Terri Ayanna Wright to find herself—both as a person and as a dancer. Through embracing the power in being a part of Alvin Ailey’s legacy, she has become a woman who is comfortable in her own skin and is not afraid to share her quirky personality with others.

Although Wright has never told her mother this, she says, “my most memorable and rewarding experiences on stage are the ones where I am pulling emotionally from a personal place, and the relationship I have with my mom has given me a lot of emotions, experiences, and thoughts to pull from.” Wright is also greatly influenced by the advice “love yourself, because I love you,” given to her at the end of a ballet partnering class she took from Michael Montgomery, a teacher at Alonzo King’s Lines Ballet School. This advice stuck with her and she was amazed how someone she did not know very well could speak from such an unexpected, but extremely genuine place. “I will never forget how he sat us down at the end of class and started pouring out his infinite knowledge. The entire class was in tears!”

Wright has learned and performed thousands of dance moves on stage and in rehearsals. However, behind the scenes, her favorite dance move is what her coworkers have coined, “The Terri.” “Imagine your hands are fisted, your arms are bent and doing a running motion, and you are standing with your feet in a neutral position. Every time your arms swing you pop your chest in and out. Depending on my level of excitement, this can be a small pop or humungous pop!” explains Wright. She also does some pre-performance rituals behind the scenes. Before every performance she runs around the corners of the stage a couple of times while saying a prayer, asking God to bless the space she and the company are about to perform on. She explains, “It’s a spiritual ritual, and it helps me warm up!”

Touring with Ailey II has led Wright to always be prepared. Whenever she travels on tour, she brings a little gray pouch containing cough drops, Benadryl, hand sanitizer, Emergen-C, gum, earplugs, and more. She elaborates, “If there is anything I learned from traveling so much with Ailey II, you can never be too prepared and your companions will thank you for it!”

When she’s not busy doing “The Terri” or any dancing at all, Wright loves Bikram Yoga, but has some favorite guilty-pleasure TV shows too. She is currently watching This is Us, New Girl, Blackish, Project Runway, and the Real Housewives of Atlanta. As for her favorite food, she tells us “I could never turn down vanilla Haagen-Dazs ice cream… never.”

Ailey II has a tremendously positive impact on Wright; “I think the most important thing it has taught me is how to be a person - not just a dancer, but a person living in today’s world. I learned what it means, what it looks like, and what it feels like to be Terri Ayanna Wright and I am so thankful for this!”

Wright will perform with Ailey II at NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts from March 29 to April 2, 2017. To learn more about Ailey II’s upcoming performances, please click here.

By Neeve MacGregor

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