Ali Willingham auditioned for the University of the Arts dance school on a dare. Now, he is a choreographer and coach at PHILADANCO, a nonprofit organization that instructs emerging and professional dancers while showcasing artists from diverse communities and backgrounds.
Ali is the Artistic Director for the D3 Juniors program at PHILADANCO. Originally from New Jersey, Ali grew up playing tennis, praise dancing in church, and later sang in high school. During his senior year, he had a lot of friends who were dancers. After seeing Ali dance at hangouts and house parties, they saw that he had talent and convinced him to try out at the University of the Arts.
After getting accepted, Ali studied Dance and simultaneously begun dancing at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. “By that point, I had only been dancing for a year, so even at 19 and 20 years old, I was put in all of the beginner classes. At 20 years old, I am in beginner classes with 11-year-olds. At first, it was intimidating. It definitely dealt with my pride. But it humbled me so much and I definitely appreciated it because it showed me how to be a great teacher”. Ali went on to receive his MFA in Dance Choreography at Temple University.
As a coach, Ali’s goal is, “to give inner-city youth and urban city youth an opportunity to take affordable dance classes and affordable technique classes”. Ali places a lot of importance on discipline and work ethic with his dancers as well. “I try to make sure that I give my students an open space as well as challenge them to make a goal by the end of the season”.
PHILADANCO aligns with Aurora Tights’ mission as they aim to expand the opportunities for black dancers and grow representation for them in the dance world. “There is definitely a voice right now in the black community for black ballerinas and making sure that they get the rights they deserve," Ali said, "With my students, I basically follow the same protocol, I follow the same vision that they have which is to give black dancers the same equal opportunities as everybody else.”
Ali’s D3 Juniors team will be performing in our Perform in Color Showcase on August 17th! We are so excited to see their performance and the amazing work that Ali continues to do in the future!
Get your ticket for the showcase today using the link https://performincolorshowcase.splashthat.com