Before the Academy year had even started, five Academy students had an experience of a lifetime. The small group was invited to travel to the White House to participate in a dance workshop and attend an event honoring Judith Jamison, the long-time artistic director of the Alvin Ailey Dance Company.
Cameron Basden, director of the dance program at Interlochen Arts Academy, was thrilled to be invited to the event and pleased to see the arts recognized and embraced at such a high level. “It is wonderful that the White House is promoting and recognizing all of the arts - and that they are giving dance this kind of visibility," said Basden.
Joshua Guillemot-Rodgerson, of New Zealand, was preparing to travel to Interlochen for his first year at the Academy when he received an e-mail message from Cameron asking him if he would like to attend a dance event at the White House. “At first, I thought someone was playing a trick on me. I thought ‘that can’t be true.’” said Joshua. But after checking in with Cameron, Joshua found out that it was indeed true. “I was already happy to be going to the Academy but this was big. It was the icing on the cake for me.”
In addition to Joshua, the other dancers on the trip included: Eoin Robinson, of Massachusetts; Eleanor Rudnitsky-Brown, of California; Samantha Stephens, of Michigan; and Alexis Turner, of Michigan.
After only a few days on campus, the students departed for Washington D.C. Their tight schedule allowed a little time for site-seeing before heading to the White House on Tuesday, September 7. The main event was held in the East Room where the White House staff had set up a temporary stage and open space on the floor. The five Interlochen dancers joined around 60 other dance students from around the country and participated in short classes covering a wide range of skills from ballet to hip-hop and tap. “I never thought that I would have a chance to go to the White House,” said Alexis Turner, a senior dance major. “And to be dancing in the White House made it that much more inspiring."
The event made a lasting impression on all the dancers. “I’ll remember the generosity of everyone involved,” said Alexis. “There was such a giving attitude of everyone involved, from the teachers who gave their time and the dancers on stage who gave their talent; and Michelle Obama who gave her time and opened the White House to all of us.”
“It was a fitting tribute to Ms. Jamison,” said Basden. “She and the Alvin Ailey Dance Company had such a focus on reaching others through their art and bringing a new generation to dance. The event definitely reflected that spirit.”