LOS ANGELES (FinalCall.com) – Haniyyah Tahirah Muhammad is a young, dance phenomenon, who has been blessed with many one-of-a kind, life-changing experiences related to her craft. From June 22-July 31, the 19-year-old will mark another one when she attends The Ailey School’s Summer Intensive Program.
The Ailey School is the official school of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, which was founded in 1958 by the late, renowned dancer and choreographer Alvin Ailey.
The intensive is basically for people who are pre-professionals to improve their skills and learn. According to Sis. Haniyyah, she will be taking 15-17 classes a week, consisting of Ballet, Modern, the Horton Technique, Graham, Pilates, Gym and Yoga techniques.
“It’s really an intensive for me as a dancer. Basically for me as a dancer, after this six-week intensive, I actually know that I will really be a professional dancer. I was just excited when I was accepted, but after the excitement, then you realize that the real work starts. I’m trying to improve my technique so that I can place and my family and I are trying to raise the money so that I can go,” Sis. Haniyyah said.
Sis. Haniyyah, who has six younger siblings, expressed that clearing the audition was extra special, because Ailey is celebrating its 50th year as a cultural ambassador to the world. Although competition for admission was very high, she earned a spot in the program after overcoming a recent foot injury, among other things.
“I auditioned in March. My family drove to Berkeley because I missed the audition in Los Angeles due to a performance in Denver with the L.A.-based Lula Washington Dance Theater. We drove to Berkeley and I competed with 74 other students. Only a handful of us, 25 were chosen,” Sis. Haniyyah recalled.
According to her mother, Sandra Muhammad, one of the most difficult challenges has been to raise the approximate $5,000 tuition fee. “Right now I feel exhausted because of all of the fundraising that we still have to do for her. We have until another week or so, but this has just been such a beautiful experience because she used to be intimidated by Ailey before, even just to go and audition. She got over that by developing her technique, taking more ballet classes and traveling with Lula,” said Mrs. Muhammad.
On May 16, Ms. Muhammad’s family, along with believers of Muhammad Mosque #27, and the Lula Washington Dance Theater, where she is a featured dancer, hosted a “Night of Majesty” to help raise the money.
The event was coordinated by Mosque 27’s Ministry of Arts and Culture and showcased Sis. Haniyyah’s talent with three dance performances, “This Day,” “Come Back As a Flower” (which she choreographed), and “Angelitos Negros.” “Come Back As a Flower” was written and performed by the late songstress Syreeta Wright Muhammad for Stevie Wonder’s soundtrack album, “Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants.”
Gladys Muhammad, award-winning poetess and fourth generation storyteller, provided Storytelling With Preshenda, and moderated the affair, which continued with songs by Bro. Alfred, Haniyyah’s father, an original piece titled “Lost Transmissions,” by her brother Na’il and other guest performances. The entertainment also included classical piano renditions, tap dancing and original poetry.
The family and supporters have reached Sis. Haniyyah’s tuition goal, however, they are still fundraising to secure her airfare to New York and for room and board. So they have established a Pay-Pal account on her website, www.haniahdance.com, for would-be supporters.
“This opportunity for her makes me feel really excellent because she’s my only daughter and the oldest child and I see her growing into something that she enjoys and loves getting others to enjoy. She’s had an affinity toward dance, almost since she was born,” Mr. Muhammad shared.
He continued, “When she was 3-years-old my wife had this exercise video that featured African dance from Tanzania, and Haniyyah would just get into that. At five she began to tap. She broke her collarbone when she was about 6-years-old trying to do a dance move that she saw on TV, but had no business doing.”
For Saviours’ Day 2009 Sis. Haniyyah performed with the Divine Hands dance troupe for Mother Tynnetta’s “Ta Ha Final Call Symphonic Suite.” “After all of that, especially performing with Mother Tynnetta, Haniyyah told me that dancing in front of the believers and especially in front of Min. Farrakhan showed her that she should not be intimidated to perform in front of Ailey or anybody,” Mrs. Muhammad said.
After the intensive, Sis. Haniyyah plans to graduate in massage therapy, continue her ballet classes regularly, and go on to major in kinesiology (the study of motion with respect to the human anatomy), and of course, continue dancing.
(For more details or to support Haniyyah Muhammad’s Journey to Ailey, visit www.haniadance.com. Tyannah Nicoles assisted with this article.)