Co-Director of The Ailey School
Melanie Person began her early dance training in Jackson, Mississippi at age 6. Upon moving to Columbia, South Carolina a few years later, she continued her dance training at the Calvert-Brodie School of Dance while performing with the Columbia City Ballet.
In the winter of 1976, by recommendation of her teacher Ann Brodie, Ms. Person auditioned for the Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) Summer Intensive and was offered a full scholarship. Upon completion of that summer program, she became an apprentice to the professional company and, in 1979, became a full member after graduating from Professional Children’s School.
For 12 years, Ms. Person performed with DTH, traveling around the world performing a diverse repertoire. She later went on to earn her B.A. from SUNY Empire State College. In 1999, Denise Jefferson invited her to join the PPAS ballet faculty at The Ailey School and in 2000 Ms. Jefferson appointed her as the Co-Director of the Junior Division alongside Tracy Inman. Shortly thereafter, Ms. Person was made Chair of the ballet department and President of the Emergency Fund for Student Dancers.
Ms. Person has served as a judge for Seoul International Dance competition and Japan’s Grand Prix.
In 2009, she was named Associate Director of The Ailey School and in 2010, Co-Director with Tracy Inman after Ms. Jefferson’s passing.
Associate Artistic Director of New York City Ballet
Wendy Whelan is the Associate Artistic Director of New York City Ballet. One of the most acclaimed dancers of her generation, she followed a storied 30-year career at NYCB with a variety of multi-disciplinary projects with cultural organizations around the world. She was named NYCB Associate Artistic Director in February 2019.
As a dancer with NYCB, Whelan counted principal roles in more than 125 ballets in her repertory, dancing virtually all of the major Balanchine roles, working closely with Jerome Robbins on many of his works, and was also the dancer most choreographed on in NYCB history, creating leading roles in more than 50 new works by such choreographers as William Forsythe, Twyla Tharp, Alexei Ratmansky, Christopher Wheeldon, Jorma Elo, Lynne Taylor-Corbett, Wayne McGregor, Peter Martins, and numerous others. Following her retirement from NYCB in 2014, she cultivated multi-disciplinary performance projects with a range of collaborators including choreographers Kyle Abraham, Joshua Beamish, Brian Brooks, Alejandro Cerrudo, Lucinda Childs, Daniele Désnoyers, Javier De Frutos, David Neumann, Annie-B Parson, and Arthur Pita.
Whelan began studying dance in Louisville with Virginia Wooton, a local teacher, and at the Louisville Ballet Academy. In 1981 she received a scholarship to the Summer Course at the School of American Ballet and a year later, enrolled as a full-time student at SAB. She was named an apprentice with NYCB in 1984 and joined the corps de ballet in 1986. She was promoted to Soloist in 1989 and to Principal Dancer in 1991.
Her awards include the Dance Magazine Award in 2007, and in 2009 she was given a Doctorate of Arts, honoris causa, from Bellarmine University in her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. In 2011, she received both the Jerome Robbins Award and a Bessie Award for Sustained Achievement in Performance.
Founder and Artistic Director of Peridance Contemporary Dance Company
and Peridance Capezio Center
Igal Perry, Founder and Artistic Director of Peridance Contemporary Dance Company and Peridance Capezio Center, is a world-renowned choreographer, ballet master, and dance educator. Mr. Perry’s elegant choreography, often in collaboration with contemporary composers, has been described as “blessedly inventive” (Jennifer Dunning, NYTimes). His works have been set on prestigious companies and performed at renowned festivals including Florence Dance Festival and Invito Alla Danza (Italy), Batsheva and Bat-Dor Dance Companies and the Karmiel Dance Festival (Israel), Ailey II and Complexions Contemporary Ballet (NYC), Companhia de Danca de Lisboa (Portugal), and Alberta Ballet (Canada). This year his new work Infinity will be set on the San Jose Ballet.
Born in Israel, Igal Perry began his dancing career with Karmon, a folk dance company. He later joined the Bat-Dor Dance Company, where he worked with leading teachers and choreographers including Alvin Ailey, Benjamin Harkarvy, John Butler, Rudi Van Dantzig, Inesse Alexandrov, Paul Sanasardo, and Lar Lubovitch. Upon arriving in the United States, Mr. Perry joined Dennis Wayne’s Dancers as ballet master and choreographer. During that period, he staged John Butler’s work for the NYC Opera, the Opera of Munich, Caracas Ballet, and Teatro Alla Scala in Milan, where he also directed the world premiere of Krzysztof Penderecki’s opera Paradise Lost. From 1981-1982, Mr. Perry headed the ballet department at Jacob’s Pillow. In 1983, he launched his dance school, Peridance Capezio Center, now one of New York City’s leading dance institutions. A year later he founded Peridance Contemporary Dance Company, for which he has choreographed over 50 works, with performances at BAM, The Joyce Theater, and City Center.
In addition to his daily class at Peridance, Mr. Perry serves as guest faculty/choreographer at The Jacob’s Pillow Festival, The Ailey School, and Marymount Manhattan College. Since 1995, Mr. Perry has served as a guest teacher at The Juilliard School, where he staged his Intimate Voices and Mourning Song. His international teaching engagements include Scapino Ballet and Het National Ballet (Holland), Laterna Magica and the National Ballet (Prague), Architanz (Tokyo), The Royal Ballet of Sweden and Balettakademien (Sweden), the National Ballet of China, and the Kwang-Ju City Ballet Company (Korea).