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Baldwin Middle School Student Alexandra Francois Featured in Newsday

Embraces Being an Ambassador for Dancers of Color

When Alexandra Francois went to parties with lively music playing as a little girl, she couldn’t resist getting out of her chair and doing her thing.

“People would just step aside” when Alexandra took to the dance floor, recalls Alexandra’s mother, Martine Perrin-Francois. “She was about 3 years old just dancing like crazy. Any song that played she would just dance to it. I don’t know where she learned that.”

Alexandra, now 12, says the urge to dance has ruled her for as long as she can remember.

“I always had a thing for dancing — getting in the middle of things and just vibing and having fun,” the Baldwin middle-schooler said. “When there were parties with little kids or my parents would have parties, I would just get up and dance … I’d dance to anything that had a good beat.”

And the beat goes on for Alexandra, though her affinity these days is for one of dancing’s softer sides — ballet — and it has invited her into a national spotlight.

Alexandra, called Allie by family and friends, is one of the newest ambassadors for Brown Girls Do Ballet. The mission of the national nonprofit, based in Fort Worth, Texas, is “to help increase participation of underrepresented populations in ballet programs.” Its efforts include ballet performances, photo exhibitions, community outreach, and providing resources to assist girls in their ballet development. Serving for one year, Alexandra’s ambassadorship ends in December.

But her activism and activities won’t stop there.

Alexandra and her family have participated in Black Lives Matter marches, including events in Mineola and East Rockaway where she participated in group dance performances. Two years ago, she performed an African dance on “Saturday Night Live” for the season’s opener featuring Chance the Rapper. In 2021, Alexandra performed a contemporary dance at New York Fashion Week for Young Gods Clothing Brand.

In a recent ambassador project, Alexandra worked with the owner of the privately owned Capezio Dance Theatre Shop in Rockville Centre to display in its window a Black History Month tri-board she made with her mother. It featured photos and short bios of prominent Blacks in various dance genres.

Included were Sierra Leonian American Michaela DePrince, who dances with Boston Ballet; Misty Copeland, the first African American woman promoted to principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre; tap dancers Gregory Hines and Syncopated Ladies; Dance Theatre of Harlem founder Arthur Mitchell; Alvin Ailey, founder of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; and choreographer, actress, director, producer and singer-songwriter Debbie Allen.

“When young [Black] dancers can see something like that poster, it gives them hope,” Alexandra said. “These are people who opened doors for the rest of us.”

In another ambassador project, she participated in Brown Girls Do Ballet’s Tiny Dancer Book Club, creating a video of herself reading a children’s story about dance. Alexandra is also looking for a space where she can set up her own studio to teach dance to children, and she plans to participate in Brown Girl’s Supply Closet and pointe shoe programs.

“You donate money and shoes for kids who can’t afford to buy equipment, but instead of getting money I would rather ask friends who are no longer dancing to donate [their dance gear],” she explained.

Community connection

Brown Girls Do Ballet founder and executive director, TaKiyah Wallace-McMillian, says Alexandra is impressive.

“Allie is off to an amazing start as an ambassador,” Wallace-McMillian said. “She’s already found a way to connect to dancers in her community as well as those we have in our virtual community. We are looking forward to hearing more from her this year.”

Capezio store owner Lisa Darcy sees Alexandra as the perfect representative for Brown Girls Do Ballet. “They made a good choice making her an ambassador,” said Darcy. “She’s beautiful, smart and well-spoken.”

Darcy added that Alexandra is a regular customer and that she was “on board” when Alexandra approached her about the poster, which, she said, “was very large, and people noticed it.” Darcy noted she would be willing to put up another one next year.

Andrew DiNapoli, principal of Baldwin Middle School, where Alexandra is in the eighth grade, says she sets an example.

“She’s a student that really sets the model of the school district for being involved, innovative, kind and respectful,” said DiNapoli. “Her course load has been as challenging as you can take as an eighth grader,” he added, involved in the business academy and choir, and taking two high school credit-bearing courses — algebra and earth science. “She’s trying different things on top of everything else she’s doing. What she’s achieving outside of school, she’s achieving inside.”

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