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Syracuse native steps up at Ailey

Dancer Aisha Mitchell leaves on 50th anniversary tour abroad next week:

When dancer Aisha Mitchell was in town last February, she took the tight-knit Ailey II members and crew home for dinner on South Beech Street the night before their sold-out, standing-ovation performance at Syracuse University. Down the hill from Thornden Park, the junior company of modern dance's legendary Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater crowded into the house that Mitchell's mother, long-time dance instructor and choreographer Cheryl Wilkins-Mitchell, shares with her mother, photographer Marjory Wilkins, for some of grandmother's spaghetti.

Mitchell was back home from New York City over Labor Day weekend and the house was crowded again. This time assorted Wilkinses gathered to celebrate the family's multiple September birthdays and on Sunday they all set out to catch some State Fair topped off with the Black Lites concert.

The Nottingham High School alum's life looks to stay crowded for quite some time. Three weeks ago, following an open audition, AAADT signed Mitchell and one other dancer for the senior company. Mitchell leaves with that company this weekend, part of the international 50th anniversary tour -- 30 performances over six weeks in nine cities, beginning in Tel Aviv and including Istanbul, Bucharest, Athens and sites in Italy and Spain. Mitchell doesn't know how much sight-seeing time she'll have, but she's been researching the countries they'll visit.

There was some overlap when Mitchell moved up to the AAADT's main company.

"I was still obligated to do the last couple -- I think four -- Ailey II 50th anniversary performances," she said on Monday. "I'd have to leave rehearsal and go to another borough sometimes for the special shows. So it was double duty there for a while."

Next week won't be Mitchell's first trip outside the States.

"Ailey II doesn't usually tour abroad," she said. "But we went to Germany two months ago because one of our women is from Berlin. They were opening a new US consulate there and they asked us to perform for that."

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