Alvin Ailey Dance Theater company member comes to GV

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Alison Bair, Staff Writer

Grand Valley State University’s dance department welcomed guest artist Renaldo Maurice for a week-long residency.

Renaldo Maurice is a seasoned choreographer and dancer, having gone to a performing arts middle and high school before getting accepted into the leading university of the arts, The Julliard School. Maurice is currently the co-artistic director of Indiana’s South Shore Dance Alliance and an 11-year company member of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Carrie Morris, GVSU professor and Dance Curriculum Coordinator, said she had received the recommendation to invite Maurice from another faculty member in the department, Professor Edgar Page. 

“Edgar spoke to his generosity, and I’m always interested in bringing people to campus who are going to be really generous with our students and give them great classes and a great piece but also just be a wonderful resource for them and that is exactly who I think Renaldo is,” Morris said.

Morris said Maurice’s expansive background in performing arts made him an ideal candidate to create a piece at GVSU. 

“I was super interested in him,” Morris said. “He is a dancer with one of the biggest professional dance companies in the United States (called) Alvin Ailey Dance Theater. I really liked both the breadth and the depth of his background.”

Guest artists like Maurice bring plenty of opportunities to dance students. 

“I think what’s valuable in all of the guest artist opportunities is just like a taste of the real world,” Morris said. “This is someone who is out there doing what some of these students think they want to do. This is an opportunity to see what that life is like.” 

Maurice said Page was the connecting dot for him to come to Grand Valley State University. He said the vision of the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater has coincided with his own and in a way, inspired collaboration with students for him. 

“The founder, Alvin Ailey, had a quote that said, ‘Dance came from the people, it should always be delivered back to the people,’ and that’s something that Ailey upholds as a company, they really deliver dance back to the people,” Maurice said.

Maurice said he’s thankful to be able to explore the world while doing what he loves. 

“I’m really fortunate and blessed to be with the company,” Maurice said. “I was able to tour across the world and to be able to share dance and be able to be an artist and I love what I do so it’s a blessing to do something you love and get paid to do it.”

As a guest artist, Maurice auditioned dancers on Monday and then worked through a rigorous rehearsal schedule to choreograph and teach a dance piece to the students. Guest artists also act as guest faculty in the department, taking over teaching technique classes during their stay. 

“You know, it was the first week back, coming to classes and I know I challenged them not only physically but mentally, spiritually and emotionally as well,” Maurice said. “I’m really proud of (the students) because they really rose to the occasion.” 

Maurice held a Q&A on his last few days at GVSU between the students and faculty. He said he appreciated the honesty among the students because he did the same when he was teaching. He shares pride with the students’ ability to be open-minded and diligent about the work that he was teaching. 

Maurice said his choreographed piece is about “rediscovering one’s power, about strength, about community and unity, we can work together and accomplish so much together. There’s so much beauty and grace within working with each other.”

His work at GVSU will be featured in the Spring Dance Concert, where audience members will be able to witness the time and efforts of both students and choreographers at the end of the semester. 

“Guest artists are such an important part of what we do and what we offer,” Morris said. “That experience with someone who’s really out there and (professionally dancing and choreographing) is invaluable.”