Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has selected Francesca Harper as Artistic Director of Ailey II, following an executive search process led by Arts Consulting Group (ACG). She began her tenure on September 7, 2021.
Ms. Harper has choreographed works for both of the Ailey professional companies, Dance Theater of Harlem, Hubbard Street II, and La Bale Da Cidade, among others. She has also choreographed works commissioned by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, and her own company, The Francesca Harper Project. Ms. Harper has been a principal dancer with Frankfurt Ballet and a featured performer in Broadway shows. Sought after for her expertise and experience as a consultant for major film and stage productions, Ms. Harper is currently engaged as Executive Producer with Sony Pictures on a series in development.
During quarantine, Ms. Harper was the creator and directorial consultant for 16 world premiere virtual films. Her latest works include a new creation for Wendy Whelan, Associate Artistic Director of New York City Ballet, and renowned poet Marc Bamuthi Joseph. Ms. Harper was awarded a two-year choreographic fellowship with Urban Bush Women, providing support toward her dance-theater work An Unapologetic Body, and a Fellowship at The Center for Ballet and the Arts at New York University. Recent engagements include serving as Co-Director and Choreographer for the musical Rose’s War and as Movement Director for the Tommy Hilfiger and Zendaya Fall 2019 fashion show at the Apollo Theater. Ms. Harper has extensive teaching experience, with posts at The Juilliard School, New York University, Barnard College, and the Ailey/Fordham BFA Program. She is currently pursuing a master of fine arts degree in performance creation at Goddard College.
In making the announcement, Artistic Director Robert Battle said, “We are thrilled, and deeply proud, to be appointing the multi-talented Francesca Harper to lead Ailey II. After training at The Ailey School as a young dancer, she embarked on an extraordinarily successful professional career in dance, while regularly returning to teach and choreograph. She knew Mr. Ailey and learned directly from Ms. Jamison. She is charismatic, caring, and utterly brilliant. Her vision for Ailey II will not only bring fresh perspectives to Mr. Ailey’s legacy, but also bring new voices to the stage and propel the company forward. She is the perfect choice to lead Ailey II.”
“Ailey II is about the next generation of dancers and throughout this search process it became apparent to us that the company’s future would be brightest with Francesca Harper’s extraordinary talent and versatility,” said Executive Director Bennett Rink. “She is a sought-after leader in the field and we could not be more pleased that she has chosen to commit herself to Ailey II.”
“My mother, Denise Jefferson, was always my inspiration and mentor for teaching and giving back to the community,” said Ms. Harper. “Through her work at The Ailey School she changed the landscape for young aspiring dance artists, including me, and was an unfailing example of courage and compassion. I feel I grew up at The Ailey School, and now, having performed and choreographed around the world, it is profoundly moving to me to come home, accepting the great privilege of leading Ailey II.”
“Congratulations on the appointment of Francesca Harper as the Artistic Director of Ailey II at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater,” said ACG Vice President Geoff Chang. “As a passionate dance educator, experienced choreographer, and prolific performer, we look forward to how Ailey II progresses under Ms. Harper’s leadership.”