Elmont dancer Samantha Stewart visits Alvin Ailey troupe

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By TIMOTHY DENTON

tdenton@liherld.com

Samantha Stewart had a dream. The 12-year-old Elmont resident wanted to visit a dance company as part of Take Our Kids to Work Day. 

Stewart is the daughter of NYPD Detective Dillon Stewart, who was shot and killed in the line of duty on Nov. 28, 2005. S he wanted to visit a modern dance company, so her mother Leslyn reached out to the New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund for help.

“Sam’s mom called us and said Sam was interested in modern dance,” Fund Development Manager Rachel Trotta said. Trotta reached out to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. 

As a result, Stewart spent all of April 24, “from 9 a.m. until after the show” with the company, Alvin Ailey School Co-Director Melanie Person said. 

“It was really interesting. It helped me widen my view, to see from the inside, to see how all the aspects come together,” a poised and articulate Stewart said. “I felt really privileged to have the opportunity of visiting the Alvin Ailey company.”

Stewart attended a technical dress rehearsal, visited the school and administrative offices, a full dress rehearsal and the show. It wasn’t Stewart’s first time backstage — “I was backstage at Radio City and saw the Rockettes” — but “it was my first time backstage at an Alvin Ailey show, and I was able to see dances I hadn’t seen before,” she said.

“She observed classes in the professional, junior and high school divisions,” Person said. “Samantha was able to see how important diversity of technique is, whether ballet, modern or jazz.” According to Person, Stewart was particularly interested in the director of international admissions. “She said she liked thinking about the journey dancers undertook to come to America, and of different places and cultures,” Person said. 

Stewart has been dancing since the age of four and said she loves all forms of dance, but has a particular feeling for modern dance. But the experience also opened her eyes to all the other possibilities in the world of dance if she decided not to pursue a career as a dancer. 

“It’s too soon to know what’s next,” Stewart said. After all, she is only in seventh grade. But she is interested in “anything in the dance field: maybe office or administration; or maybe even something technical.”

The New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund was founded in 1985 by the late N.Y. Mets icon Rusty Staub. The Fund has been helps survivors of fallen NYPD officers, NYFD firefighters, EMTs and Port Authority officers. Since its founding, some 600 survivor

families have received more than $140 million. 

“Families receive a gift of $25,000 in the first year, and $7,000 every year for the rest of their lives,” Trotta said. The small staff of three raises more than $4 million a year.

Stewart was just an infant when her father was killed, although her older sister, who accompanied her to Alvin Ailey, was six years old. Dancing is Stewart’s connection. “My dad used to dance with me around the house,” she said. “I watch videos of him dancing with me, and I feel closer to him” 

For more information on the New York Police and Fire Widows’ and Children’s Benefit Fund, visit www.answerthecall.org ; email at info.answerthecall.org; or telephone at (646) 731-9630.