Ailey dancer returns to roots
By Bob Kostanczuk Post-Tribune correspondent March 6, 2013 4:44PM
Renaldo Gardner performs a solo dance at the West Side Theatre in Gary, Ind. Wednesday February 8, 2012. Gardner is a Gary native and member of the West Side Theatre Guild who performed with the Ailey II dance troupe. | Stephanie Dowell~Sun-Times Media
At a glance
Gary native Renaldo Gardner will teach a master class for intermediate and advanced dancers from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Monday, March 11, at South Shore Dance Alliance studios in the Franklin Center, 201 N. Griffith Blvd., Griffith.
The fee for the master class is $20 per person, and reservations are recommended.
For more information or to register, visit www.southshoredance.org or call 513-9368.
Updated: April 9, 2013 11:05AM
Renaldo Gardner is a Gary native who is living the life of a professional dancer with the prestigious Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater of New York City.
“Just to be there now, at 22 years old, with the main company is a dream come true for me, basically,” Gardner said in a phone interview conducted shortly before Ailey’s engagement at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago, which runs March 8-17.
Aside from his Windy City appearances, Gardner also is teaching a master class in dance on Monday in South Shore Dance Alliance studios at the Franklin Center in Griffith.
He attended the Emerson School for Visual and Performing Arts in Gary, which is now known as the Wirt/Emerson Visual and Performing Arts High Ability Academy.
Gardner will likewise impart his dance knowledge to students at Wirt/Emerson on Monday.
Instructed in ballet at Ailey facilities in the Big Apple, Gardner is glad to be sharing tips with the aspiring dancers he will teach at his Monday classes.
“It’s a feeling of joy because I know I want to eventually come back — move back to Indiana and maybe open up my own (dance) studio,” the resident of Brooklyn, N.Y., said.
Gardner’s upcoming stints as a dance tutor in Northwest Indiana will provide local youths with a good role model, according to Larry Brewer, artistic director of the Griffith-based South Shore Dance Alliance.
“It shows the kids from the area that you don’t have to be from Chicago or New York to go and be a successful dancer,” said Brewer, a dance teacher at Wirt/Emerson.
Gardner, said Brewer, returns to Northwest Indiana with an intrinsic message for creative, artistic young people: “If they work hard, they can go wherever they want to go in life, and Renaldo’s a good example of that. He was one of the original members of South Shore (Dance Alliance) when we were the Northwest Indiana Dance Alliance.”
At the 10-show engagement of the Alvin Ailey troupe at the Auditorium Theatre, Gardner will show off dance styles ranging from ballet to hip-hop.
Gardner saw an Alvin Ailey company perform in Gary when he was a child.
Now, he’s a prominent performer with Ailey, which — according to its website — was founded in 1958 “to bring African-American cultural expression and the American modern dance tradition to the world.”
Gardner was schooled at Alvin Ailey with the backing of a full scholarship.
He currently has an enviable career with the choreographic company that utilizes everything from Middle Eastern folk music to mambo.
“It’s a lot of, lot of hard work, but I know I wanted to do it,” the dancer from Gary said. “For me, it’s just another piece of enjoyment that fulfills my life, because dance is my life.”
Gardner concedes that some of his youthful peers in his Gary days did not quite understand the concept of boy dancers.
“He caught a lot of flak for being a dancer,” Brewer said. “I think one of the problems that most young people have today is that they succumb to peer pressure, and he was able to withstand that.”