“Dance is a higher calling. You can’t just dance; you have to wholly embody the meaning of what it is to dance? All of this movement, all of this dancing, comes from a place of love.We dance because we love. We fight because we love. We struggle because we love. We need to keep that love alive.” -Niles Ford
Last Friday night I had the privilege of shooting a wonderful, highly emotionally charged evening at the Irondale Center in Brooklyn where Urban Dance Collective was giving a tribute to their recently passed on founder, mentor and friend Niles Ford.
One of the things that struck me about the evening was that it was really a celebration of his life, and while I did see many tears throughout the theatre, the love, energy and atmosphere was definitely, well, almost festive?! Who must this man have been, then, to have a more than packed house, with this type of energy coursing around, rather than the mourning I had expected? I wanted to know more.
I spoke to the rather reluctant, ‘in transition’ Artistic Director Royce Zachery. To Royce and so many others, Niles was the type of man to give you the shirt off his back, “.. a very special person, human being. Very rare,” he said quietly. When you looked into Ford’s background he of course had the full mantle of credits and accomplishments that you would expect. But what really came across on Friday and in conversations I’ve had with dancers since, was a quality of human being that truly embodies what it is to be an artist, to reach out, be with, and touch others, not just in his work but in his life.
Urban Dance Collective shares this about founder Niles Ford:
Niles taught a love of life and brought the joy of dance to so many. Through his example, he taught us to live our art. As part of his company, Niles made each of us feel appreciated not only as artists, but human beings. He nurtured and pushed us to find our own individuality and beauty.
Niles Ford was so many things to so many people. He was a mentor, a teacher, a confidant, a friend, an inspired artist, and to us a family member. He gave so much of himself to each one of us and helped us grow not only as dancers and artist, but everyday people.
Niles’ sudden and untimely passing is a huge loss to the dance community, arts community, his family and his company. I’m quite sad that I’ve only come to know him posthumously. I would have truly liked to have known him and been a witness to his work and spirit.
About Niles Ford
Niles Ford (1959-2012) was the founder of Urban Dance Collective. He graduated with a M.F.A. in dance from NYU Tisch School of the Performing Arts and a B.A. from University of the Arts. His 30-plus years in the professional dance world have filled his dance card with such note worthy names as Boston Ballet, Bill T. Jones,Ron Brown, Gabri Christa’s dance on film project Savonetta, Danny Slone and Company, The Rod Rogers Dance Company, Dance Theathrer of Harlem, Philladanco, and a collaberation with marlyse Yearby on her piece, Brown Butterfly, a tribute to boxer Mohammed AliNiles Ford recieved a Besse Award in 1993 for his outstanding performance in Merian Soto’s Historias. Throughout his career, Ford’s work has recieved grant support from the Jerome Foundation, NY State Council for the Arts, The Harkness Foundation for Dance and the Puffin Foundation. He has also recieved grant awards from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and the Asian Cultural Council.
Niles Ford had a heart attack and passed away in his sleep on January 14, 2012. His wife, Jenny Taylor-Ford; two sons, Isaac, age 13, and Malik, 9; mother, Clarice Ford; sister Stacey E. Ford; a host of aunts, uncles, cousins and friends; his dancers, his students, and the people his artistry touched, will carry on his legacy of love.
About Urban Dance Collective
Urban Dance Collective is a dance company working in more than one dimension. We deal with social issues of the day through visual art, spoken word, and music. Like other artists we communicate the psychological effects of these issues; poverty, war, sexism, religion, and homosexuality, through physical movement. UDC also collaborates with dancers and choreographers from other dance companies, sharing ideas artistically, witnessing other view points. The choreography aesthetic is a hybrid of techniques including ballet, modern, jazz, hip-hop, club dancing, and pedestrian movement.
Look for performances by Urban Dance Collective this coming spring UDC will also be performing at Summer Stage in NYC, August 18th, 2012