A principal dancer with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Belen Pereyra, is entering her sixth season with the company, bringing her Latin passion to the company many credit with popularizing modern dance.
The much-revered company, which is performing in New York City at Lincoln Center this week, has given the bright young Dominican star a place to continue to grow and challenge herself.
“I’m always a student at Ailey, and that’s refreshing," Pereyra, 28, told Fox News Latino. "It’s a rigorous schedule – and physical demanding with such diversity of movement – but I get to do what I love.”
Both Pereyra’s parents were engineers, but chose to leave the Dominican Republic and immigrate to the U.S., seeking a better life for their children.
Although she graduated valedictorian from Boston Arts Academy attending on a full scholarship. She originally started working at Alvin Ailey – which has performed for an estimated 26 million people in 71 countries on 6 continents, promoting the uniqueness of the African-American experience – on a work-study program.
“I would get three free classes a day. After getting up the courage to audition, I went into hard-core mode and began training," she told FNL. "I studied everything Ailey and killed my audition.”
She has said that her background listening to Latin music has made it easier to dance African-inspired dances.
“Palos and bomba leads you into African dance, which leads you into hip-hop,” she told Latin Heat.
Pereyra says in all of her travels with the company, Argentina has greeted them with the most uncharacteristic enthusiasm. It’s not uncommon for audiences to stand up and clap at the end of performances, but Pereyra says that in Argentina it sounds as loud as a soccer match, with audiences cheering and chanting.
The dance company was founded in 1958 by dancer and choreographer Alvin Ailey, who died in 1989. The initial concept was to showcase performers of color dancing a variety of modern styles.
The company has been recognized by a Congressional resolution as a vital American Cultural Ambassador to the World.
Alvin Ailey recently received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor, posthumously.
“I’m so honored to be apart of this. The more I learn about Ailey’s impact, I think that’s what a career should feel like,” Pereyra told FNL.