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BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Daniel Harder

BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Daniel Harder
Daniel Harder. Photo by Andrew Eccles.

Today's subject is living his theatre life as a company member of one of the most prestigious dance companies in the country. Daniel Harder is currently on tour with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. The company will be performing at The Kennedy Center starting tomorrow evening (Feb 7th) through 12th in the Opera House.

Born and bred in Bowie, MD, Daniel began dancing at Suitland High School's Center for the Visual and Performing Arts in Maryland at age 15. He graduated from the Ailey/Fordham University B.F.A. Program in Dance, where he was awarded the Jerome Robbins/Layton Foundation Scholarship. He has participated in the Holland Dance Festival with The Ailey School and as a member of the Francesca Harper Project. After dancing in the European tour of West Side Story, Mr. Harder became a member of Ailey II. He has been an Ailey company member since 2010. His repertoire includes "No Longer Silent" and "Piazzolla Caldera".

The New York Observer was quoted as saying "Keep an eye on Daniel Harder...". That is nothing to sneeze at. Breaking into dance is even harder than getting into theatre. There is always more competition for only a few slots. Daniel Harder is an example of one of those instances where the stars aligned. The fact that he has been able to dance with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and perform the original Jerome Robbins choreography in West Side Story shows what can happen when you pursue your craft so passionately.

Check out Daniel Harder and the legendary Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at Kennedy Center for an evening (or afternoon) of dance you'll never forget. This local boy has done good for himself, wouldn't you say?

Growing up in Bowie MD, what or who got you interested in dance?

As a kid, I was always dancing. My first real dance teachers were Michael and Janet Jackson. I used to watch and learn the choreography from their music videos. At age 15, my first official dance classes were at Suitland High School. It was my first intro to all forms of dance.

Who were some of your dance heroes?

Debbie Allen was a big influence and is my biggest inspiration. I had the opportunity to work with her at Kennedy Center when she was an artist in residence. She is always encouraging us to not only hone our craft, but open our minds to everything in the world such as art history etc., so it can in turn influence the art you do.

Of all the dance companies to choose from, why did you choose to audition for, and ultimately become a member of, Alvin Ailey?

Upon working with Debbie Allen I met former Alvin Ailey company member Stephen Smith. He was so limber and agile. I never saw anyone move like that before. I started learning more about the company and history and that was it for me. The stories the company's pieces tell are universal and I wanted to be a part of that.

BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Daniel Harder
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Johan Inger's Walking Mad. Photo by Paul Kolnik

Can you please give us an overview of what the Alvin Ailey program will be at Kennedy Center?

There's a lot of variety. Plenty of premieres. The subject of incarceration is featured in a piece called Untitled America. There is a company premiere by Johan Anger called Walking Mad, which has a very large wall that moves throughout the stage to create the atmosphere. And then, of course, there will be company favorites like Alvin Ailey's legendary piece Revelations.

BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Daniel Harder
Daniel Harder and company in Robert Battle's No Longer Silent. Photo by Paul Kolnick.

Alvin Ailey is currently touring the country. Every venue you go to is different and, I imagine, has its own set of challenges. What is the most challenging venue you've played in on this current tour?

The most challenging part is constantly refining what we're doing to match the stage size. There's more room to travel on a bigger stage so you always have to rethink for a smaller one. We are very fortunate with the venues we play.

You were part of a European tour of West Side Story. Is that show on the bucket list of most dancers, and what was it like dancing the original Jerome Robbins choreography?

The musical theatre bug hit me with Ms. Allen. It's such an iconic work to be put into and was such a special time for me. I was in the Ailey's B.F.A. program when it happened. Taking that experience and putting those skills to use was great in addition to putting my acting and performing chops to the test. The whole experience was a dream.

If you had to pick another Broadway musical to be a part of what would it be? Please explain your choice.

It's closed now but honestly it would be The Color Purple. It's an incredible story that everyone can relate to. It requires such a strong ensemble.

BWW Interview: Theatre Life with Daniel Harder
Daniel Harder in Cape Town. Photo by Andrew Eccles.

What advice can you give to a dancer just starting out?

Never stop having fun. Fall in love with hard work. Learning can be challenging, but it is all part of your growth. It is the key to honing and developing your craft not only as an artist, but as a person.

Special Thanks to Kennedy Center's dynamic dance publicist Brittany Laeger for her assistance in coordinating this interview.

Theatre Life logo designed by Kevin Laughon.

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