MOVING PEOPLE: Nasha Thomas on Her Favorite Performance with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Her Secret Talent, and "Revelations" Virtual Dance Workshop
Nasha Thomas oversees AileyCamp and designs the national outreach for Ailey’s Arts In Education & Community Programs. As a primary liaison between the Ailey organization and the national arts-in-education community, she plays a central role in working with local communities to develop and run AileyCamp in cities across the U.S., as well as managing national residencies, leading workshops, and teaching master classes, helping Arts In Education reach over 100,000 people each year through education and community initiatives. A graduate of New York’s High School of the Performing Arts and Southern Methodist University, she received the prestigious Presidential Scholar of the Arts award. At the invitation of Alvin Ailey and later under the direction of Judith Jamison, Ms. Thomas danced with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater from 1986 to 1998.
Highlighted as one of Good Housekeeping’s “Humanitarians Who Are Our Heroes,” Ms. Thomas combines her passion for inspiring the next generation and personal experiences as a performer and Master Teacher to lead Ailey Arts In Education programs in public school classrooms across the country to the Lincoln Center Plaza and from Gracie Mansion to the White House, and more. In 2020, Ms. Thomas reached students across the world virtually as she helped kicked off the 60th anniversary of Alvin Ailey’s iconic Revelations with a social-distanced workshop streamed from the Rockefeller Center rooftop, with virtual programs for TED Discovery Series and Facebook, and was the lead instructor for the Revelations Virtual Dance Workshop Series, designed for middle school students blending dance with poetry, history, and music, which builds a foundation of artistic exploration that will enhance any students’ academic experience.
Left headshot: AIE Master Teacher Nasha Thomas leading Revelations Celebration Workshop in partnership with EHE Health; photo by Elena Mudd
Right picture: Ailey Master Teacher Nasha Thomas teaching at the Ailey Arts In Education and The Music Centers Rocka Your Soul event at Grand Park in Los Angeles, CA. Photo courtesy of The Music Center
My earliest memory of dancing is ___________.
when I was around 6 years old, and I studied at the Bernice Johnson Cultural Arts Center in Jamaica, Queens
I knew dance was my passion, and I had to be a dancer when ___________.
I went to college to continue my dance training and began auditioning after graduation.
My favorite performance experience with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre was ___________ because ___________.
my first performance of the ballet Cry
we were in London, and my mother was in the audience. Having her in the audience was very special because Alvin Ailey choreographed this solo on Judith Jamison as a birthday gift to his mother.
The most important aspect of Alvin Ailey, the person, for me ___________.
was his genuine love for people and his need to connect to his audience on a deep level beyond the stage
I enjoy teaching virtual dance workshops in communities across the USA because ___________.
it allows us to continue our Arts In Education & Community outreach programs through Remote Learning Activities, and helps provide the youth a creative outlet they need during the pandemic which has forced so many restrictions on human interaction
We launched several video lessons adapted from our Revelations Residency curriculum, which can be shared with teachers, students and organizations so they can learn about Alvin Ailey, his masterpiece Revelations, and create their own dances without having to book one of our in-person residencies. I had the pleasure of leading the Revelations Virtual Dance Workshop series with another former company member, Michael Thomas, and we are thrilled to bring our popular residency program into homes across the country.
I think what is most important to impart to young students, who are not necessarily going to be dancers, is ___________.
the discipline, commitment, work ethic, respect, and resilience that the arts require, which are needed no matter your career path.
I think students who want to be professional dance artists need to know ___________.
nothing happens by osmosis, and it takes hard work as well as sacrifices.
2020, the year of pandemics, taught me personally and professionally that ___________.
giving up is not an option. When it's necessary, we must accept change and adapt although we are creatures of habit. I learned to do without many things I was used to having, and to find new interests to keep myself busy.
What do you consider your greatest achievement thus far?
My greatest achievement has been to learn and embrace being selfless. Whether as a mother, wife, performer, teacher, supervisor, or mentor, I get the most rewards from giving, inspiring others, and being supportive.
A truly good day for me starts with ___________, has ___________, and ends with ___________.
work that is fulfilling
being grateful for the opportunity to do what I love.
My favorite book and/or magazine is ___________, and I like it because ___________.
anything by British crime author Elizabeth George
I love a good ‘who done it’ novel!
I long to travel to ___________ because ___________.
I think it's one of the most beautiful places in the world. I want to visit different cities there and learn about the culture.
My biggest influences are ___________ because ___________.
the women who were my role models like my mother, my first dance teacher, Judith Jamison, and others
they were intelligent, nurturing, giving; they pushed me to always be better, and were fearless.
The most unexpected thing that ever happened to me when I was leading a large Ailey community workshop was ___________.
in Atlanta when I was teaching a section of Alvin Ailey’s Revelations to a class of high school boys. They came to class the next day and performed the solo "I Wanna Be Ready" that they had taught themselves from watching it on YouTube!
My favorite non-dance pastime is ___________.
hanging out with my 3 dogs.
My most amazing, secret talent is ___________.
I can braid hair really well.
I question ___________.
people who consider themselves to be superior to others, and who are mean and uncaring.
If I weren’t involved in the dance field, I would be very interested in exploring ___________.
The most expressive part of the body is ___________.
What is the first thing you will do when you know that we no longer have to socially distance?
Hug my friends and family. I'm not a lover of too much physical contact normally, but I miss it now.