FSB Dance Instructor, Torens Johnson, tapped to lead first AileyCamp in Detroit

Friends School Dance Instructor, Torens Johnson, first got his taste of the iconic dance company Alvin Ailey after watching the company perform when he was a student at Morris Brown College in Atlanta. Although he danced throughout high school, Johnson reflects that most people in his life didn’t think that “dance wasn’t a real thing to study.” The Ailey performance opened his eyes to the possibility, and after auditioning for a position, he was invited to participate in their certificate program.

Johnson attended the Ailey School in 1990 and went on to join the Repertoire Ensemble, now known as Ailey 2. After performing with Ailey 2, he was off to Kansas City, affectionately known as the company’s “second home.” As an artist-in-residence in Kansas City, Johnson had the opportunity to meet lots of people leading master classes and lecture demonstrations. This experience prompted his interest in teaching the art of dance.

More recently, Johnson was appointed to lead the very first, AileyCamp in Detroit, MI. The camp, which is for middle school students, runs all over the United States (including a camp in Baltimore, MD). Students can learn dance styles and techniques like ballet, modern jazz, and West African, as well as important life skills like personal development and creative communications. At the end of the six weeks, the students put on a performance.

In addition to putting together the first Detroit AileyCamp, the busy teacher/choreographer is also working to finish his MFA in choreography at Wilson College. Through various conversations and personal reflection, Johnson became infatuated with the life and music of Donny Hathaway, and has woven original choreography together with Hathaway’s music and lyricism into a stunning piece. 

The thesis performance, titled I Was Singing This Song For You, will be performed (at a date to be announced) at the Forbush Auditorium at Friends School. Johnson, who is working with four other young men of color, hopes to instill in his dance partners a love of learning. Reiterating that he didn’t realize studying dance was a professional pathway that was open to him, Johnson hopes to encourage the younger dancers to continue on with their passion for the craft and encourage young men of color to pursue higher education.
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