According to Bennett Rink, executive director of the globally recognized Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation, one of the gifts of the arts is that it provides certain life skills that will serve you whether you decide to pursue a career as a professional artist or not.
For Rink, these lessons came from Louisville’s Walden Theatre, which he attended during the latter years of high school.
Under founder Nancy Niles Sexton, Rink and his fellow students learned the basics of theater: diction, staging, how to memorize lines. They also picked up some more demanding skills that typical youth theater programs don’t offer, such as writing and producing their own student-run plays, and digging deep into Shakespearean and commedia dell’arte techniques.
“That’s the thing, if you are part of really rigorous theater program, you learn to listen, how to respond since there’s a lot of give and take,” Rink says. “It just tells you a lot about the life skills that you need no matter what you end up doing.”
Rink, who works in New York, has returned to Louisville in conjunction with Alvin Ailey Dance Theater’s performance at the Kentucky Center for Performing Arts on Tuesday, March 15.
Formed in 1958 in New York City by choreographer and dancer Alvin Ailey, the company is made up of 30 dancers. It’s been recognized as far up the chain as Congress, in a resolution that calls the company a vital American “Cultural Ambassador to the World” for celebrating the African-American cultural experience and the American modern dance tradition.
In Louisville, the company will be performing several of its signature pieces, including “Night Creature,” “After The Rain,” “Four Corners” and “Revelations.”
“We close with Revelation, and as I’ve said, I’ve seen it around the world,” Rink says. “No matter where we go it touches people and moves everybody, and I promise you, by the end of the performance, everyone will be on their feet.”
Prior to being named executive director in January 2013, Rink served the Ailey organization — a multifaceted institution that encompasses Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Ailey II, The Ailey School, Ailey Arts in Education & Community Programs, and the Ailey Extension — in a number of roles.
When the company celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2008, Rink supervised an 18-month celebration, including events, promotions, collaborations and special performances, bringing a new level of public awareness to the Ailey organization. In his current role, Rink runs the business side of the organization while working alongside artistic director Robert Battle.
While in Louisville, Rink will be receiving an award for his accomplishments from Walden Theatre. But he intends to turn it into an opportunity to inspire current students at the theater.
“While here I will see a lot of friends from Walden,” Rink says. “I’m talking actually to students tomorrow at Walden, too, so that will be one of those full-circle moments.”