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“Former Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater dancer Clifton Brown actually inspired and influenced me most as a dancer,” says Gabriel Hyman who is in his second-season with Ailey II. Hyman says that Brown’s “incredible ability to blend elements of fluidity and grace with strength and agility is absolutely mesmerizing.”
He originally joined Ailey II as an apprentice in 2014 and became an official company member in 2015. Even after joining the company, he continues to feel immensely inspired by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. As he puts it, “I love being a part of an organization that encompasses so much history for African Americans and dance. I find the many cultural boundaries that Alvin Ailey broke for African-Americans and concert dance especially inspiring. It is truly an honor to be a part of Mr. Ailey’s legacy in celebrating the African-American experience through the modern dance tradition.”
Since joining the company, Hyman has been influenced in particular by the domestic and international touring that comes with being an Ailey II dancer. “Having the opportunity to travel to countries that I've never been to- such as Italy, Spain, Germany, and France, among others- has allowed me to learn about different cultures and arts around the world,” he says. Touring contributes a great deal to why Ailey II means so much to Hyman, “it is incredible to have the opportunity to not only travel domestically, internationally, and perform for audiences around the world, but to also give back to global communities through the art of dance.”
On tour, Hyman never leaves without his journal and a Pilot G-2 07 pen. When he isn’t touring or dancing, he loves sitting down with a good book at a coffee shop. “It’s incredibly calming, and the perfect change of pace from dance on my days off,” he explains - not to mention that it also satisfies his love for coffee. Hyman also loves pistachio macarons and NBC’s This is Us. His favorite dance move? “Any move found in a Beyoncé video or live performance,” he reveals.
Before a performance, Hyman always listens to an R&B playlist he created with songs by some of his favorite artists, including Frank Ocean, Beyoncé, and Drake. The music gets him “in the zone.” Although he has his own pre-performance ritual, the Ailey II company also has a collective ritual they perform. Hyman described it for us: “As a company, before every performance we circle up and breathe in and out together followed by a prayer. This calms any butterflies I might have that evening and really prepares my mind and my spirit for the performance.” After he performs, Hyman enjoys reflecting on the performance on his way back to the dressing room. “After each curtain closes I thank God for giving me the opportunity to do what I love to do every night,” he says.
When asked what advice he lives by, Hyman remarks, “Always learn to find beauty in uncertainty. Sometimes life has a weird way of working itself out and you don’t always know what is coming next, but it is important to trust that while you are working on being where you want to be, you should also appreciate where you are.”
Hyman is currently performing with Ailey II at NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts through April 2nd. To learn more about these Ailey II performances, please click here.
By Neeve MacGregor

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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