September 12, 2021–Legacy is so important, especially in the arts. That’s why I couldn’t have been happier to read about the appointment of Francesca Harper as the new Artistic Director of Ailey II. Seriously, I believe there is no better person to lead the next chapter of this beautiful company than Francesca, who is both a visionary and great collaborator!
Francesca has an extensive and extraordinary background. An internationally renowned, multi-talented artist, she first trained at the Ailey School where her late mother Denise Jefferson was the director of education. Francesca later studied at the School of American Ballet and the Joffrey Ballet School. She began her career with the Dance Theatre of Harlem and later went on to become a principal dancer for five years in William Forsythe’s Ballet Frankfurt. Francesca’s many performance credits include television and Broadway, along with being the ballet consultant for the film Black Swan.
Francesca founded her own non-profit dance company more than 15 years ago, The Francesca Harper Project, which has been dedicated to creating groundbreaking dance, music and theater performances. She also has choregraphed for both Ailey companies.
About Francesca’s appointment, Robert Battle, the Artistic Director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, is quoted in the New York Times as saying, “She’s an inspiration for being bold and trying different things. The other part of it is just her as a teacher: She has that nurturing quality that is so important. I think she has the right amount of empathy, but discipline, to impart.”
I have had the pleasure of knowing Francesca for some time and I have admired her commitment, determination and artistry. I also knew her late mother Denise, who was simply the most amazing, brilliant, creative, and the kindest person one could ever know. During Denise’s decades-long tenure as director of the Ailey School, the student body grew to 3,500 dancers from around the world and a faculty of 75. The school offers study in a wide range of dance styles—from modern to jazz to classical ballet. I am certain Denise is laughing with sheer joy to know that her daughter is building on her legacy at Ailey.
Go Francesca! We are all supporting you and looking forward to celebrating your many great accomplishments to come.