A lifetime of dancing thanks to Alvin Ailey

Leslie Salmon-Jones, accompanied by husband Jeff Jones, practises on the beach. Bill Tipper photo.
Leslie Salmon-Jones, accompanied by husband Jeff Jones, practises on the beach. Bill Tipper photo.

As another performance of the prestigious Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre is set to be staged at the Sony Centre this weekend, a Canadian woman who attended the school has used that training to found Afro Flow Yoga (AFY).
Leslie Salmon-Jones, daughter of Canada’s first Black chief of surgery, the late Dr. Douglas Salmon and former Metro Toronto councillor Bev Salmon, told The Camera that through her intensive dance training at Alvin Ailey Dance Company in New York City, she was first introduced to yoga and almost 20 years later, remains dedicated to that discipline.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre is performing at 8 p.m. tomorrow (March 4) and at 2 and 8 p.m. on Saturday at the Sony Centre. Ticket information at www.sonycentre.ca or phone 1-855-872-7669.
Growing up in Toronto and dancing since she was seven, Salmon-Jones said attended a performance byAlvin Ailey dance theatre in the city and was mesmerized.
As luck would have it, while training at Alvin Ailey’s dance school from 1991 to 1993, the school gave her a scholarship to attend London Contemporary in England.
On her return to New York, she received another scholarship from the company to attend Alvin Ailey dance school.

Leslie Salmon-Jones
Leslie Salmon-Jones

“When I was growing up, there was very little Black history or art that you had exposure to so when Alvin Ailey came that was like one of the few things that I had been exposed to, other than Black heritage that my parents had taken me to but just like in a citywide kind of environment where many people got a chance to see them.
“So I remembered feeling pulled to Alvin Ailey because I was dancing at the time because my aunt had a ballet studio. I had never seen anything like these beautiful Black bodies gracefully leaping across the stage and the spirituality of it and just the amazing Black history of it, so it wasn’t until I was older that I wanted to pursue my training there. I wanted to experience it.”
She said she loved that the company is diverse, with people from around the world. “In ballet you have really thin bodies, you don’t have big tights, so what was beautiful about the Alvin Ailey company is that you have all shapes of people.”
She added that she was exposed to “top dancers in the world” and the training was extremely rigorous.
“Ballet was the foundation and then we also got exposed to yoga, so this is 25 years ago when yoga wasn’t popular. We had to take it, it was a requirement.”
Although she did not meet Alvin Ailey who passed away in 1989, Slamon-Jones said the company invited diversity, inclusion, self acceptance and he took the African American story, the story of slavery, oppression and he used the Negro spiritual to create this beauty in motion.
“It something like human resiliency expressed in the choreography.”
She has been living her dreams as a professional dancer, certified holistic personal trainer, yoga instructor, certified wellness coach, and public speaker. She said her parents’ work “planted the seed” for her health and wellness component of AFY, which started in 2008.
Her father, described as a pioneer in gastric bypass surgery, performed surgeries on morbidly obese patients whose lives were threatened. She describes her mom as an agent of change, as a nurse, human rights and community activist.
Salmon-Jones and husband Jeff Jones, a multi-instrumentalist, recording artist, musical director and co-founder, of AFY, offer weekly classes, monthly workshops and teacher trainings in Boston and New York.
AFY is a combination electrifying dance movements of the African Diaspora flowing with a meditative yoga sequence and soulful rhythmic drums and other musical instruments. AFY has held classes in Costa Rica, Hawaii, Jamaica and Toronto and received invitations to teach in Dubia, India and Bali, Indonesia.
For more information visit www.afroflowyoga.com.