Dance is more than a series of movements that follow a beat.
In the hands of a great choreographer like Alvin Ailey, dance is a powerful language in which the human body expresses a range of emotions and ideas.
Ailey’s unique style of dance will be on display this weekend at Salem State and Endicott College, where Sylvia Waters of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will lead several programs.
Workshops, which are limited to students from the two schools, will share Ailey’s techniques and introduce some of his famous dances.
But in two lectures on three successive days that are open to the public, Waters will put Ailey’s career in perspective.
“The first one basically is Mr. Ailey’s background, from his early beginnings, and the genesis of a lifelong vision,” Waters said. “The second one is a chronicle of his work, his process, how the company runs.”
“All of this is from my perspective, having been with the company for as long as I have,” she said. “You get some of the backstory of the history.”
Waters’ lectures will include archival footage of interviews with Ailey, who died in 1989, and taped performances of his dances.
She will also discuss Ailey’s collaborations with great jazz musicians, from Duke Ellington and Max Roach to Charlie Mingus.
Waters joined Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1968. She toured with the company until 1974, when Ailey chose her to lead Alvin Ailey II, a group of dancers who have attended the Alvin Ailey School and who participate in educational programs before going on to professional careers.
A master teacher and head of the Horton department at Ailey for more than 30 years will teach students Horton Technique, a vocabulary of dance movements invented by Ailey’s mentor, Lester Horton.
“Horton is a dance discipline, and that’s where he started,” Waters said. “From that experience, Alvin culled his whole ideology about dance.”