More than 200 friends, family, and fans of the Ailey/Fordham BFA in Dance program filled the Ailey Citigroup Theatre in New York City on April 15 to watch the program’s annual benefit concert—and celebrate 25 years of an innovative partnership between Fordham University and the official school of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Following a brief video highlighting the history and mission of the BFA program, Naia Neal kicked off the evening’s performances with The Serpent, a solo piece choreographed by Jonathan Lee. Neal, a junior in the program, is one of two current recipients of the Denise Jefferson Memorial Scholarship, an artistic merit scholarship established in 2012 for Ailey/Fordham students and funded by donor support and proceeds from the annual benefit concert.

Each class performed a group piece: First-year students showed off their West African dance training with Den-Kouly (Celebration), choreographed by Imani Faye; sophomores performed an excerpt from the more ballet-centric For They Are Rivers, choreographed by Becky Brown; juniors danced an excerpt from Darshan Singh Bhuller’s athletic, abstract Mapping; and the senior class came together for Fredrick Earl Mosley’s Running Spirits (Revival and Restaging), a playful piece that featured impressive jumps, lifts, and—as the title suggests—dancers filling up the stage with speed.

Three Ailey/Fordham alumni—Mikaela Brandon, FCLC ’19; Naya Hutchinson, FCLC ’21; and Shaina McGregor, FCLC ’18—came back to dance alongside Neal in Four Women, choreographed by senior student Baili Goer.

The Ailey/Fordham BFA in Dance program welcomed its first class in fall 1998. The brainchild of thenAiley School director Denise Jefferson and Edward Bristow, Ph.D., then dean of Fordham College at Lincoln Center, the program combines rigorous dance training with a rigorous liberal arts education. Its graduates perform with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the Rockettes, and on Broadway stages and beyond. Today, the program is led by Ailey School co-director Melanie Person and Fordham professor Andrew Clark, Ph.D.

The concert was preceded by a reception for ticket holders in a sixth-floor studio at the Joan Weill Center for Dance on West 55th Street, five blocks from Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus. The Fordham Lincoln Center Jazz Ensemble provided musical entertainment during the reception.