Terry Whitt Bailey


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Woman dancer in repose.

Terry Whitt, UCLA, circa 1987. Photo by Walter Jackson

I was a freshman dance major at Rutgers University in 1982. Growing up in Springfield, Illinois, I saw no dancers of color perform onstage, and very few in books or on television. One fall evening in 1982, I spent $7.50 for a round trip ticket to New York City to see the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre with a friend. When we arrived at the Joyce Theatre, we paid $5.00 for seats in the top balcony. Only $5.00! When the lights went down and the curtain went up, I can still remember leaning forward in my seat and looking at African-American dancers! Wow!! They were beautiful and bold and breathtaking! I knew at that moment that my life was changed forever. I stood taller and had more confidence in dance classes. Dance education and arts administration became my passions. I was able to start the Minority Student Dance Ensemble at Rutgers University for students of color (still in existence). I attended UCLA and studied under Ron Brown (a former Ailey dancer) and danced with a local professional modern dance company while getting my MA in dance education with an emphasis on African-American dance history. I eventually became an assistant professor of dance at two universities (Ball State University and Chicago State University) and founded another dance company at Chicago State University in 1991 (another dance company that is still in existence!). In 2004, after returning to Ball State University, I became the founding president & CEO of Cornerstone Center for the Arts in Muncie, Indiana, from 2004-2010. I also had the wonderful opportunity to lead the Madame Walker Theatre Center in Indianapolis for two years after that. And this dream all started in the upper balcony at an Alvin Ailey concert!

Terry Whitt Bailey
Muncie, IN