News: The White House Dance Series Celebrates Jamison

“From ballet to Broadway to hip hop, today is a celebration of some of the most beautiful, powerful and emotional aspects of American dance,” said Michelle Obama at the Obama administration’s first celebration of dance in September.


The day-long event was directed by Damian Woetzel, former New York City Ballet principal, now a member of the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities. It included performances and 90-minutes of master classes for dance students from Ballet Hispanico, The Ailey School, National Dance Institute, The Washington School of Ballet, Chicago Multi-Cultural Dance Center, Interlochen Center for the Arts and other schools.


Nasha Thomas Schmitt, co-director of arts in education for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, began the day by teaching a warm-up and excerpts from Revelations. “Teaching in the White House was very exciting and a little daunting,” she says. “But these children were all dance students, so they had a knowledge of movement and I knew that they would be easy to work with.”


The First Lady paid tribute to Judith Jamison, who begins her final season as artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. “What brings us together today is the extraordinary career of an amazing, phenomenal, fly woman,” said Obama of Jamison. “For years I have gone to watch Judith’s company whenever and wherever I can. And I always try to bring these two women [my daughters] with me . . . because I want them to witness the grace and the beauty that stirs our souls and connects us to each other like nothing else can.”


Watch excerpts from The White House Dance Series’ master classes at


Photo: Michelle Obama and Judith Jamison (Kristin Colvin Young, courtesy of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater)

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