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Connecting with audiences is at the heart of the Ailey experience, so Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s much-anticipated return to the stage is a reason to rejoice. Revel in the passion these dancers bring to each program, the skill and artistry no pandemic can diminish, and the palpable joy of live performance. Using the universal language of dance as a medium for honoring the past, celebrating the present and fearlessly reaching into the future, the Ailey company has performed for an estimated 25 million people around the world. This mixed repertory program will feature new and classic works, including the beloved Ailey masterpiece Revelations. Using African American spirituals, song-sermons, gospel songs and holy blues, Revelations fervently explores the places of deepest grief and holiest joy in the soul. Whether you’ve seen Ailey before or this is your first experience, you’re sure to discover something new.
Programming* for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater:
Lazarus Act I
Lazarus Act II
Love Stories finale
*Programming subject to change.
Support for this program is made possible by generous donors who have committed time and resources to the Charleston Gaillard Center’s Dance Initiative.
In the Company’s first two-act ballet, acclaimed hip-hop choreographer Rennie Harris completes a trilogy of works—including past Ailey audience favorites Exodus and Home—with this hour-long work inspired by the life and times of Mr. Ailey.
“The genesis of this work came to me while seeing Verdi’s Requiem at Carnegie Hall,” explains Robert Battle. “I found myself utterly absorbed in the intricacies of how the choir moved as a unit and then organized and condensed themselves in the pews. The juxtaposition of the choir themselves constrained by space while their voices traveled through the hall was fascinating. I began creating the movement you will see in Mass by deconstructing the chorus. I wanted an original score and was familiar with John Mackey from previous works I had created, making him a clear choice for the composer.”
Set to Nina Simone’s haunting rendition of the Oscar-nominated song “Wild is the Wind,” In/Side offers audiences an intimate look at a man’s most private struggles.
Artistic Director and choreographer Robert Battle noted that it was Alvin Ailey himself who said that the greatest works of art are the most personal. With this solo, he aimed to evoke a sense of openness that he says “reminds us that we’re not alone in our feelings of sadness and isolation and gives us a connection to someone else.”
Using a live concert recording of Fitzgerald performing the song “Airmail Special,” Ella matches the iconic singer’s virtuosic scatting with lightning-fast, articulated movement in an irresistible tour-de-force that leaves audiences (and the dancers) breathless.
ABOUT FOR FOUR
Take four amazing Ailey dancers and add in Wynton Marsalis’ delicious jazz score – written in 4/4 time – and you’ll understand why Robert Battle cheekily titled this exuberant short work For Four. Originally created as the opening video segment for the 2021 Ailey Spring Gala virtual broadcast, Battle used the pent-up energy of a world that had largely been cooped up for the prior 15 months during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Dance really is about being close together,” said Mr. Battle. “When we were in the studio making this dance, you could feel the electricity of what we did together, the way we felt so free to express ourselves in the way that we do, and so For Four is a manifestation of that expression.”
In its review of the Gala, The New York Times observed: “With all its spinning and attitudinizing… [For Four] can seem like simple release. But there’s also a darker, more desperate undertone, a hint of having to perform…. Something more than pent-up energy is being expressed.”
Artistic Director Robert Battle’s sensuous, swirling duet evokes the tenderness and ecstasy in Gustave Charpentier’s aria. With its fluid grace, this gem exemplifies the choreographer’s skill for nuanced gesture and vivid imagery.
Robert Battle’s bravura work mixes humor and high-flying movement in a savvy deconstruction of Indian Kathak dance rhythms. Clear shapes and propulsive jumps mimic the vocalized syllables of Sheila Chandra’s syncopated score.
For Battle, the work represents his modest beginnings as a dance-maker and reminds him of how far he’s come. He created Takademe while still a dancer with the Parsons Dance Company, in a living room in Queens, New York. “Most dances have a lot to do with restrictions and problem-solving,” he explains. “And one of the problems was that we didn’t have a lot of space, so the dance stays very stationary. But then when we finally got studio space… the movement travels on a long diagonal. Freedom. I’m always reminded of that as a metaphor for where I am now with Ailey, where there is a remarkable amount of space.”
ABOUT LOVE STORIES FINALE
2004’s Love Stories was a collaboration among Artistic Director Emerita Judith Jamison, choreographer Rennie Harris, and Artistic Director Robert Battle. Inspired by the African concept of “Sankofa”, which teaches that “we don’t know where we’re going unless we know where we have been”, this extraordinary ballet celebrates the traditions of African American dance and the rich heritage of Alvin Ailey.
In the ballet’s joyful finale, being presented as a standalone piece this season, Battle portrays a luminous future built on the lessons and legacy of the past. The New York Times called it “astoundingly well danced… a breakthrough in creative choreography” and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution proclaimed, “It’s a party!”
Using African-American spirituals, song-sermons, gospel songs, and holy blues, Alvin Ailey’s Revelations fervently explores the places of deepest grief and holiest joy in the soul.
More than just a popular dance work, it has become a cultural treasure, beloved by generations of fans. Seeing Revelations for the first time or the hundredth can be a transcendent experience, with audiences cheering, singing along, and dancing in their seats from the opening notes of the plaintive “I Been ’Buked” to the rousing “Wade in the Water” and the triumphant finale, “Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham.”
Ailey said that one of America’s richest treasures was the African-American cultural heritage—“sometimes sorrowful, sometimes jubilant, but always hopeful.” This enduring classic is a tribute to that tradition, born out of the choreographer’s “blood memories” of his childhood in rural Texas and the Baptist Church. But since its premiere in 1960, the ballet has been performed continuously around the globe, transcending barriers of faith and nationality, and appealing to universal emotions, making it the most widely-seen modern dance work in the world.
Photo Credit: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Photo by Dario Calmese.