When Amos Machanic Jr. entered New World School of the Arts as a teen, he always assumed he would become an actor. With a concentration in theater, Machanic’s career course was set, but one fateful performance changed his aspirations and way of thinking forever.
“It was in my junior year that I first saw the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. And, I said, ‘Wow. I want to try that,’” recalled Machanic, who successfully auditioned for the dance program at New World for his senior year. “It was marrying movement and theater and just everything.”
After graduating the performing arts school in 1992, Machanic successfully auditioned for the scholarship program at the Ailey School and then Ailey II, the junior company. While with the junior company, he toured college campuses throughout the United States.
“When I first saw the company, I was in awe and I always try to keep that freshness about me, even though it’s my 15th year in the company,” said Machanic, who grew up in the area now known as Miami Gardens.
In 1996, Machanic joined the Ailey Company. He and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater can be seen at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami, from Feb. 17-20. For its 2011 season in Miami, the Ailey Company will premiere its new work Love Stories.
Of the works that the Ailey Company has performed over the years, Machanic’s favorite remains, Revelations, the signature piece of the company. Another popular work of the company is last season’s Uptown, which is an ode to the Harlem Renaissance. In Uptown, Machanic plays, Victor, the dapper emcee of the entire piece.
“Because of the role I was playing, Victor, I had to really go back to my acting roots. I forgot how much fun it is,” said Machanic. “Uptown just made it that much more richer an experience for me. It made me investigate the theatrical level of the ballets where I wasn’t dancing.”
Now that Machanic has been re-bitten by the acting bug, he does fancy that he will eventually transition into an acting career. But, Machanic maintains that he is happily living in “Ailey Land” and not ready to leave. In conjunction with his Ailey career, Machanic takes health and nutrition very seriously.
“A topic that has just taken over my life, that I absolutely love, is health and nutrition. How can we be healthier? How can we be in our best bodies?” asked Machanic. “Ms. Jamison says, ‘We are nothing but a reflection of our audience.’ Our lifestyle shows what comes with discipline, hard work, imagination, and creativity. ”
He sites that, while on tour, whenever he and the members of the Ailey Company arrive in a new city, their first order of business is to make a trip to the grocery store to stock up on fruits and vegetables and seek out the local fitness arenas to stay healthy and balanced. One of the favorite wellness activities among the dancers, especially Machanic, is iyengar yoga, which mainly focuses on alignment of the body.
A typical day for a non-touring Ailey dancer begins with a session of yoga or Pilates, a dance technique class, the rehearsing of new dances being introduced into the repertoire, followed by lunch and perfecting their movements for upcoming works.
In those long days, Machanic admits having a personal life can be challenging, but he finds ways to make it work. In his spare time, Machanic likes to read health and wellness books and is known to frequent Skype and Facebook.
While on tour, Machanic and other members of the company enjoy exploring the touring city and spending time with family and friends who reside there. He also said that the company itself is its own community.
“Ailey means family to me. It means love. The company is constantly pushing, not only its dancers, but its audiences to the next level; to think ahead. To think of how much better we can be as human beings,” Machanic said. “When I think of Ailey, I think of vibrance, excitement, elegance, beauty, depth, history, the black experience, but also the American experience.”
Kimberly Grant can be reached at KAliciaG@aol.com.