Webster University’s centennial kicked off with a celebration at the downtown campus and a letter…
‘A creature of dance’
After a career filled with pirouttes and plies, Alicia Graf Mack recently retired as lead dancer from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre to pursue a career teaching dance at Webster University and Washington University. Mack said she’s had a life long love affair with the art of dance at the Centennial Event held on September 25th in Loretto-Hilton.
“I am a creature of dance,” Mack says.
Her love of dance began when she was just 3 years-old and she hopes to be dancing when she is 80 or 90.
“A dance creature is someone who doesn’t turn it off and turn it on. I’m always a dancer, whether I’m out on the street with my child or in the studio,” Mack said. “That is such an integral part of who I am. When you see dance creatures move they don’t look human. They look something other because they’ve completely embodied movement. You don’t see the person, you see music personified.”
The pursuit of perfection has led to performances around the world for Mack. Before she began her teaching career at Webster University, Mack had performed for audiences with the type of tenacity she says cannot be taught.
By teaching classical techniques, she hopes to give her students the fine-tuning on their artistry needed to pursue a career as a professional dancer. Anyone can say they are a dance teacher, but Mack said she wants her students to be equipped with sound information.
Isabelle Lande, a BFA major with an emphasis in ballet, is one of Mack’s level three ballet students at Webster University. She wants to be able to dance with a company in New York after graduating. Lande said the wide knowledge range that Mack has in ballet and modern dance is unbelievable.
“Alicia teaches us to be expressive in your movement and dancing like it might be your last time to dance,” Lande said. “That’s how you get better.”
Webster student Morgan Smith is a Dance Performance major and a student of Mack’s. She wants the opportunity to choreograph after graduation.
“Because she is so current in the dance world, she keeps it real in class. She pushes us, and doesn’t dumb it down,” Smith said.
Mack still dances, and when she is not teaching, she is being taught, rehearsing for performances coming up in February. Life has not slowed down after Alvin Ailey, but taken a different direction. Determined to share her love of dance and empower and instruct young dancers, Mack became co-founder of D(N)A Arts Collective in hopes of enriching the lives of others through the art of dance.
“Ideas are always changing. Dance changes as time changes,” Mack said. “Dancers are becoming more athletic than before so you have to be able to challenge dancers in a different way. I am looking to grow as a teacher. I think I’m a good teacher, but I want to be a great teacher.”