When Arthur Mitchell took one look at the then-17-year-old Centennial High School senior, the director of Dance Theatre of Harlem famously uttered just one word: "Now."
He meant that he wanted the Columbia ballerina to join his world-famous company as soon as possible. The next year, Alicia Graf (who married Kirby Mack in 2010) was featured as one of the 10 most influential performers of the year. In 1999, she danced Balanchine’s “Prodigal Son” at the Kennedy Center, and when a serious leg injury sidelined her shortly afterward, it began to seem she might never give another professional performance. The young dancer left Dance Theater of Harlem and returned to school, graduating magna cum laude from Columbia University with a degree in history.
"Perhaps my injury was a blessing in disguise," Mack said in 2002. It was during this forced hiatus that she formed a spiritual dance company to perform at local benefits organized by her parents, Martha and Arnold Graf, for the Prostate Cancer Network.
Her return to the stage was highlighted by a magnificent performance for the Howard County Arts Council’s first “Rising Stars” contest in 2003.
"The Rising Star performance gave me the last bit of confirmation that I needed to jump back into a dance career," Mack says today. "I was so grateful for that moment in time, when my family and friends could see how much I missed and loved performing."
Her return to professional dance began with a year in Complexions, directed by Alvin Ailey veteran and Broadway dancer Desmond Richardson, then on to Ailey’s troupe that toured the world during her six years with the company. Her high-flying picture was plastered on billboards, and Dance Magazine picked her as one to watch in 2009.
Mack stepped away from her professional dance career after another injury and earned a master’s degree in nonprofit management from Washington University. She now teaches dance at the college level.
She promises to come back from her Missouri home soon to visit her Columbia family and continue reaching dancers through the D(n)A Arts Collective, which she founded with her sister, Daisha, last year.