He is Alfred L. Dove and he is the new dance program manager at the Wayne Center for the Arts.
For the past 16 years, Dove has been based in Columbus, where his associations ranged from Columbus State University to The Ohio State University Dance Festival to Denison University and the King Arts Complex. Recently, he said, he considered openings at Radford University and Virginia Commonwealth University before he heard from a friend about the opening in Wooster.
He was vaguely familiar, he said, and knew of both The College of Wooster and Ashland University. And although he could find little online about the arts center, he said he felt a nudge. “Something happens,” he said, “and you just go and see.”
While he will continue teaching long-time private students in Columbus, Dove said his plan is to eventually relocate here with his wife, who currently works in the medical field in Columbus.
What he won’t miss, Dove said, is the political climate of the arts in that city, where for eight years he directed “The Chocolate Nutcracker,” LaVerne Reed’s multicultural take on the classic holiday ballet.
He is getting to work immediately at the arts center, where he will oversee a summer dance program that will serve as an introduction to classes the center will offer going forward. He is aware of the recent controversy surrounding the Wayne Center Ballet, which currently has no instructors, and said he wants to start anew. That means, he said, getting parents involved. “You have to know something about dance,” he said. “You can’t just turn them over and say, ‘make them a dancer.’”
Dove plans to concentrate his efforts on the 3- to 12-year-old dancers. And while he is comfortable with beginning and intermediate ballet instruction, he most likely will focus on modern dance, jazz and choreography. “What I don’t want to do,” he said, “is do what someone else does really well.”
And the door is open not only to dancers, but to instructors as well. “If there’s a teacher who wants to work here and who believes in our mission and who wants to be here,” they are welcome to apply, Dove said. At least five years of experience is essential and no one will be hired until Dove has observed them teaching a class.
How a dancer will develop is determined, Dove said, by the quality of the first instructors the dancer has. “If those first teachers are not excellent teachers,” he said, “they will ruin that girl for the rest of her career.”
And not everyone, he said, is going to excel in a ballet class, making it important for students to be exposed to all genres. “I’m going to give my heart and my passion to the dance program,” Dove said. He expects the same from the dancers. He recalled being at an audition where 500 dancers were being considered for fewer than 50 spots. Right off the bat, half the people were cut because they didn’t understand the instructions for a dance sequence or couldn’t execute it correctly. “I loved it,” Dove said of his own dance career, “but I saw a lot of hearts broken.”
His theory is that a dancer should do 90 percent of the work, while the instructor does the remaining 10 percent. “If I’m working harder than the student is,” he said, “they’re not going to have a career in dance.”
And frankly, not everyone who takes a lesson will have that career. But, Dove said, there are valuable lessons to be learned nonetheless. Dance can teach a person self direction and self discipline, he said, as well as body awareness and an artistic esthetic. “They can certainly be a doctor or a lawyer or a mayor,” he said. “The stage is not for everybody.”
The stage seemed little more than a dream for Dove, who grew up poor in South Carolina and quickly realized he did not want to spend his life working in one of the town’s steel mills. He followed his brother, Ulysses, to college at Howard University, where he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in acting. He went on to the University of California, Irvine, where he was awarded a Master of Fine Arts in dance.
His brother ended up in New York City, where he danced for Merce Cunningham, Alvin Ailey and Anna Sokolow before moving on to choreograph pieces for the American Ballet Theater, the New York City Ballet and the London Festival Ballet.
When Ulysses Dove died in 1996, Alfred Dove became the administrator of his estate, including deciding which companies would perform Ulysses Dove’s works and how those works will be cast and staged.
The work takes him on the road three or four times a year to cities like New York or Seattle or Dallas or Las Vegas. It should not, he said, interfere with his work in Wooster. “I’ll probably do what I’ve been doing and doing this during my vacation time,” Dove said.
His longest time away, a week, was for a trip overseas to work with the Royal Danish Ballet.
Typically, Dove said, the dance company will send him a DVD of its classical work and offer some of its principal dancers for main roles. But, Dove said, he likes to get a look at the whole company in person. “If I see a beautiful dancer,” he said, “we’ll haggle.”
By his third day on-site, rehearsals will begin and two casts will be selected. Over the course of five weeks, there will be five hours of rehearsal a day, with a stager reporting back to Dove on the progress.
His brother’s best known pieces “Vespers,” “Red Angels,” “Bad Blood” and “Dancing on the Front Porch of Heaven” have been performed by Alvin Ailey, the Dance Theater of Harlem, the Royal Swedish Ballet and Pacific Northwest Ballet.
Still, he looks forward to getting back into teaching and to seeing how young people can be transformed through the arts. “This is an opportunity to pull things out of me that have been dormant for a while,” Dove said. “ ... When people look at me, I want them to see art and passion and life.”
Published: June 18, 2015