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Two Incredible Dance Works in Toronto This Weekend: Alvin Ailey Dance Theater and Danceworks’ “Sporting Life”

Performing arts lovers are going to be thrilled this weekend with two incredible multifaceted dance presentations coming to our city this weekend: The Sony Centre for the Performing Arts is featuring the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s latest, bringing to Toronto some premieres, new productions and some Ailey classics. Also taking place this weekend at Harbourfront Centre is Sporting Life, the latest DanceWorks presentation featuring Choreographer Julia Sasso’s re-envisioning of her striking Dora-nominated work.

Both shows feature some very successful and well established Hispanic dancers. In the case of the Alvin Ailey dance company, Belén Pereyra, Linda Celeste Sims and Glenn Allen Sims are all part of the highly successful long-running ensemble. As per the show’s press release, “Dominican-American dancer, Belén, began her formal dance training at the Boston Arts Academy, where she graduated as valedictorian. Linda began her dance training at Ballet Hispanico School of Dance and was featured on the cover of Dance Magazine, and in annual “Best of” lists. She has performed as a guest star on So You Think You Can Dance, Dancing with the Stars, and The Today Show. Glenn has been seen in several network television programs including BET Honors, Dancing with the Stars and The Today Show.”

As for Harbourfront’s DanceWorks “Sporting Life” presentation, its headliner is Colombia-Toronto renowned dancer Mateo Galindo, who “has trained, taught and performed in Colombia, USA, Cuba, Panama and Canada. Torres’ most recent professional experience includes work with Peter Chin, Larchaud Dance Project, Alan Gilsenan, Lemi Pomifasio, Aria Evans, Jacob Niedzwiecki, Danny Grossman, Peggy Baker Dance Projects, William Yong, Kaeja d’dance, Maxine Heppner and Toronto International Ballet Theatre. Torres is the artistic advisor and guest choreographer of the newly founded company Form Contemporary Dance Theatre.”

School of Toronto Dance Theater

Mateo Galindo-Photo Courtesy of Harbourfront Centre

Belen Pereyra

Belén Pereyra-Photo Courtesy of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Alma Latina had a chance to speak briefly with Belén Pereyra, who’s still in New York preparing for their upcoming 2016 North American tour, about their upcoming visit to our city. She spoke enthusiastically about what Toronto audiences can expect, as the Alvin Ailey dance company brings some of its best works, including Canadian premiere of Awakening, Robert Battle’s first world premiere as Artistic Director and incorporates “beautiful lighting and these really incredible shapes that are created on the floor, very magical and powerful,” says Pereyra. The show also includes hip-hop choreographer Rennie Harris’ “Exodus” (“Very fun, a crowd favourite”); Open Door (another Canadian Premiere) inspired by Choreographer Ronald K. Brown’s travels to Cuba. “It has a little taste of salsa,” says Pereyra. “It’s a lot of fun, especially for the Latin community, they would be very excited about Open Door.”

Other works being featured over the two days include “A Case of You”, a very beautiful duet choreographed by Judith Jamison (“the Goddess”, says Pereyra, who took over as Artistic Director in Mr. Ailey’s passing and led the company to new heights) and performed to Diana Krall’s version of the Joni Mitchell classic song A Case of You; “Love Songs”, which was choreographed by Alvin Ailey; “Tocatta”, a ballet set in the streets of New York, created by Talley Beatty and incorporating the nuances of classic and jazz to the music of Grammy Award-Winning Argentine composer Lalo Schiffrin; the Canadian premiere of Four Corners, choreographed by Ronald K. Brown, and last but not least the company’s signature piece, choreographed by Alvin Ailey himself, “Revelations”.

The company comprises of over 30 dancers, and for Pereyra having been with them for five seasons is something she’s extremely grateful and proud of, especially because getting there was a really difficult journey. She dabbed into dancing as a child in her native Lawrence, Massachusetts, when her mom signed her up for a Peruvian “Marinera” dance group, which led to ballet from age 8 all the way to high school. She joined the Boston Arts Academy (a 2-hour daily commute) but was almost kicked out of the school when they found out she didn’t live there. There were many people she credits with helping her get to where she is today, starting with a teacher/mentor who gave her a place to live so she didn’t have to leave her school, and so many others who saw her passion and hunger in a journey with many detours (that really only fuelled her desire to continue), but she finally made it after a long and difficult struggle that spanned many years. She began a gradual introduction to the Alvin Ailey dance company and eventually became a full member of the dance troupe.

“I decided I wanted to be in the best company, I wanted to travel the world and I wanted to be challenged artistically and I thought, ‘Ailey is the best, I should do it.’” She began her slow introduction to the company, after struggling in the industry for many years, by training for that specific purpose day and night for a year, then auditioned and was ecstatic to finally get in. “It was a long journey,” says Pereyra. “I’m very grateful for it and I appreciate every moment and experience because I know how long it took for me to be here and just what it’s like to not have it, to really almost give up. Now that I’m here I feel that God couldn’t have placed me in a better place because not only am I working with the best, I feel it is extremely versatile, which is what I consider myself to be as an artist. It’s really refreshing to be challenged in such a way. Also, when it comes to the legacy of Mr. Ailey, the more I’m understanding, the level of mission that was laid out by Mr. Ailey, the more proud I am to be here. I feel that Ailey’s really touches a human side of people when they come to see our performances and I’m so just proud to be part of that.” Toronto will witness the magic and power Pereyra spoke so enthusiastically of as the 20-city North American tour makes a stop in Toronto this weekend.

Meanwhile, on the waterfront at Harbourfront Centre, Toronto’s own dance company “DanceWorks”, the longest -running contemporary dance series, is proud to present “Sporting Life”, the newly re-imagined and very “rigorously physical, technically and emotionally challenging” dance by acclaimed choreographer Julia Sasso, 20 years after she  first premiered this striking work in Ottawa. DanceWorks then presented it in 1997, earned that year multiple Dora Award nominations, including Outstanding Choreography. This feature presentation is brought to Harbourtfront Centre as part of Next Steps.

“Sporting Life reveals the vulnerability, pain and deliriously nonsensical contradictions inherent in a society steeped in violence – condoned and otherwise. In a series of deliciously absurd vignettes linked together in theme, movement style and content, Sporting Life places five characters (one female and four male dancers) in conflict, revealing the futility of aggression as well as our potential for redemption. Potent and poignant, this often darkly humorous work is performed by a talented ensemble of Irvin Chow, Matthew Cuff, Jesse Dell, Daniel McArthur and Mateo Galindo Torres,” according to the press release.

For tickets for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, 1 Front Street East
Friday, March 4 @ 8pm (Program A)
Saturday, March 5 @ 2pm (Program B)
Saturday, March 5 @ 8pm (Program A)
Tickets range from $69 to $99 and can be purchased by:
Phone: 1-855-872-SONY (7669)
Box Office: 1 Front Street East
Discounts available for groups of eight or more.
Call 647-438-5559, 1-866-447-7849 or visit

For Tickets for “DanceWorks: ‘Sporting Life’”
Thursday, March 3 to Saturday March 5, 2016 at 8pm nightly
Post-performance Q&A on Friday, March 4
At Harbourfront Centre Theatre as part of Next Steps
231 Queens Quay West, Toronto, ON
Tickets: $19 – $37; $15 CultureBreak (under 25); $5 HipTix for students; Discounts for seniors, students and groups.
For tickets, call Harbourfront Centre Box Office at 416-973-4000 OR visit online:

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