Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey enriches the culture behind dance

The culturally rich dance studio serves as a larger purpose for the community.


Student Laila Atkins holds up two fists, following her dance instructor’s commands Nov. 10. The series of commands walked students through arm, core and leg movements. photo by Amy Schaffer

by Kendall Lanier, Lifestyles Editor

Junior Christian Lunn was a dancerat Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey for two years. She was given several opportunities from dancing at the studio. From having the chance to dance with the famous dancer and choreographer Debbie Allen to performing for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Company.

“[KCFAA] teaches you the importance of dance and why you should be dancing, basically the professional views of dance,” Lunn said.

KCFAA is the official second home of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Ailey II, founded by Alvin Ailey, Allen Grey and community leaders.  In 1981 when Ronald Reagan was elected, he eliminated the touring subsidy which was essential for funding the touring aspect of large companies like Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. According to Chief Artistic Official of KCFAA Tyrone Aiken, the company looked to set up a second home in either Atlanta, Los Angeles or Kansas City.

“Alvin Ailey chose Kansas City because of the warmth that he felt here and it being so different and arrested from the hustle and bustle of New York,” Aiken said. “ But also because KC is a jazz route and he could explore choreographies that would explore jazz music and traditions,”

KCFAA was created in 1984 and will be celebrating their 35th anniversary in 2019. Since its creation, the non-profit has grown tremendously.  

[KCFAA]  started to grow as we provided outreach to the community exposing people to dance which continued to grow as we had our Ailey camp programs, our studio programs and our youth development programs around diversity and inclusion,” Aiken said.

The studio program offers classes for the youth from second grade through high school. There is a $35 annual, waveable registration fee but the classes are free.

“The studio program is an opportunity to give high quality dance training at low cost to anyone that wants to come in and study,” Aiken said.

 In order to provide attainable dance for the community, KCFAA is a non-profit that receives compensations from several donors. The donations they receive stem from a variety of categories. A large amount comes from art based groups, education, and  diversity and inclusion.

“Non profit means that you are competing for funding from individuals, foundations and government support in order to provide community service programming to the community that we feel is relevant or important,” Aiken said.

KCFAA does more than just provide dance classes. They present the Ailey trio who perform 15 different shows for public schools in the region, they hold a black history month program called Setting the Stage, host the Ailey camp and provide a symposium on  diversity with a town hall discussion on large topics.

Unlike other dance studios in the metro area, Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey makes dancing accessible for all. It provides a strong sense of culture through dancing.

KCFAA is focused on providing for the community.

“There should be spaces that have a sense of diversity, and a sense of wanting to raise young people to a higher standard and wanting to look at art excellence in ways to engage audiences in learning and exposures about the abundant diversities that is America,” said Aiken.  

They continue to live by Alvin Ailey’s mission: “Dance came from the people and should always be delivered back to the people.”