Alvin Ailey® American Dance Theater
Power and grace. Tenderness and strength. Precision and passion. For 60 years, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has embodied these complexities and contradictions of the human condition with dance performances that uplift and transform, making the company one of the world’s most beloved. Offering an homage to traditional modern dance techniques blended with the new, the Ailey company will perform four different programs of mixed repertory with classic Ailey works and contemporary masterworks. Each program will feature the soulful American masterpiece Revelations.
"Trailblazers" (April 3 & April 6 evening performances)
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.
With Lazarus, Harris connects past and present in a powerful work that addresses the racial inequities America faced when Mr. Ailey founded this company in 1958 and still faces today.
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.
"Bold Visions" (April 4 evening & April 7 matinee performances)
Kairos, The Call, Shelter, Revelations
The title for this contemporary ballet by British powerhouse Wayne McGregor takes its name from the ancient Greek word "kairos," which denotes the most opportune time to take action; its other meaning is weather. The ballet is played out to Vivaldi's The Four Seasons, re-imagined by experimental composer Max Richter, and against an imaginative set by Idris Khan.
Ailey is the first American company to perform this work. Like McGregor’s wildly popular Chroma, Kairos uses walls to create a starkly dramatic onstage world—the perfect setting for his sinuous, angular movement.
The ballet premiered as part of STEPS, Switzerland's largest national contemporary dance festival, hosted by the Ballett Zürich for the first time in 2014. In 2015,Kairos was shown at the Edinburgh International Festival, receiving a string of 5-star reviews.
PLEASE NOTE: Strobe lighting is used in the opening section of this ballet.
Ronald K. Brown’s joyous mix of modern and African dance—seen previously in Grace, Open Door, and other works—fits the Ailey dancers perfectly, and his themes of spiritual awakening and redemption never fail to inspire.
Originally performed by the Ailey company in 1992, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar’s Shelter is a passionate statement about the physical and emotional deprivation of homeless people. The Ailey company has typically performed it with either an all-female or all-male cast; for its return to the Ailey repertory during the 2017–18 season, it will be performed by female dancers.
"Musical Inspirations" (April 6 matinee performance)
Members Don't Get Weary, Juba, Ella, Revelations
Members Don't Get Weary
Jamar Roberts, a veteran dancer with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and 2016 “Bessie” Award recipient, made his Ailey II choreographic debut in 2015 with his work Gemeos, set to the music of Afrobeat star Fela Kuti. The Dance Enthusiast described Roberts’ movement as “an intricate script that sweeps the stage like calligraphy.”
Roberts’ first work for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is inspired by the blues. In Roberts’ own words, “As a response to the current social landscape in America, Members Don’t Get Weary takes an abstract look into the notion of one ‘having the blues.’”
Set to the powerful music of the legendary American jazz saxophonist and composer John Coltrane, the work uses the dancing body to inspire the audience, allowing them to transcend their own personal blues momentarily.
This eagerly anticipated return of Artistic Director Robert Battle’s first creation for Ailey is a modern day Rite of Spring with an abstract twist—an electrifying thrill ride through ritual and folk tradition. Battle’s uninhibited movement melds seamlessly with an original score for string quartet and percussion by his frequent collaborator John Mackey.
Originally created as a solo, this high-energy comical dance was reinvented as a duet by the Ailey company for its December 2016 opening night gala benefit, “An Evening of Ailey and Jazz" – in anticipation of the legendary singer Ella Fitzgerald’s centennial in April 2017.
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.
"Timeless Ailey" (April 5 & April 7 evening performances)
Excerpts from: Blues Suite, Streams, Mary Lou's Mass, The Lark Ascending, Hidden Rites, Night Creature, Cry, Phases, Opus McShann, Pas de Duke, For "Bird"--With Love, Love Songs, Memoria
This special 60th Anniversary Classics program brings together over a dozen treasures from Alvin Ailey's wonderfully rich body of work, including highlights of seldom-seen gems like Mary Lou's Mass and The Lark Ascending, as well as perennial favorites like Memoria, Night Creature and Cry.
With the rumble of a train and the toll of distant bells, a cast of vividly-drawn characters from the barrelhouses and fields of Alvin Ailey’s southern childhood are summoned to dance and revel through one long, sultry night. Ailey’s masterpiece, first seen at the Company’s premiere performance in 1958, poignantly evokes the sorrow, humor and humanity of the blues, those heartfelt songs that he called “hymns to the secular regions of the soul.”
Alvin Ailey’s highly structured yet fluid compilation of stunning solos, duets, and group work which reflects the formal, meditative mood of Miloslav Kabelac’s music. “Scherzo,” the male duet in which the dancers engage in friendly competition, showcases Mr. Ailey’s homage to legendary choreographers Martha Graham and his mentor, Lestor Horton with movement that reflects their styles.
Mary Lou's Mass
This female solo is a highlight from Ailey’s collaboration with Mary Lou Wililams, the “Queen of Jazz” to her composition, “Music for Peace.” “…one of my plans in life is to identify black music,” Mr. Ailey remarked to Anna Kisselgoff of The New York Times in 1971, “to make it audible.”
The Lark Ascending
The Lark Ascending is Ailey’s tribute to Vaughan Williams, and the lark represented the heart’s rapture and the soul’s aspiration. A miniature violin concerto in all but name, the composer called The Lark Ascending a "romance" when he completed it in 1920, though he commenced the composition before war broke out in 1914.
Alvin Ailey described Hidden Rites as "the battle of the sexes." "The age-old fight and seduction rituals that occur between men and women have excited my sensibilities for a long time," he said. The ballet was one of the most experimental in his career, exploring the kinetic relationship between males and females and depicting the quintessential psychological and physical elements that simultaneously tear us apart and unite us. Patrice Sciortino's percussive score with bells, chimes, piano, drums and whistles further established the atmosphere of a mythical kingdom, inspiring Ailey to investigate the myths and rituals of Africa, India, Egypt and Asia.
A bubbly champagne cocktail of a dance, Night Creature perfectly fuses Alvin Ailey’s buoyant choreography and Duke Ellington’s sparkling music in a definitive homage to The Duke’s jazz that remains one of Mr. Ailey’s most popular works. Ellington said, “night creatures, unlike stars, do not come OUT at night– they come ON, each thinking that, before the night is out, he or she will be the star.”
Alvin Ailey choreographed his signature solo Cry as a birthday present for his mother Mrs. Lula Cooper, and created the dance on his stunning muse, Judith Jamison. It was an instant sensation and went on to become an enduring work of American art. This physically and emotionally demanding 16-minute solo is dedicated to “all black women everywhere – especially our mothers.” The last section of the solo has the Voices of East Harlem singing “Right On, Be Free.”
Phases is Alvin Ailey’s startling, classic jazz dance which was choreographed at the height of his artistry. The ballet is divided into five sections, each composed by a significant African American jazz musician. Associate Artistic Director Masazumi Chaya said, “With Phases, Alvin related to the timing of the jazz rhythms as well as the energy and creative feelings of the sounds.”
A choreographic portrait of Jay McShann, the “great practitioner of the Kansas City jazz piano style and living legacy of Kansas City jazz,” Opus McShann conveys the various styles this jazz master exudes through his music. From the sexy, beguiling duet in “Gee Baby Ain’t I Good to You,” to the comical meandering in “Doo Wah Doo,” Opus McShann presents the jazz doctor as a modern day African American icon with whom everyone can relate. The original Ailey dancers who first performed this piece studied swing, lindy-hop, and the jitterbug to perfect this lively and upbeat ballet’s movement style.
Pas de Duke
Pas de Duke was Alvin Ailey’s modern dance translation of a classical pas de deux honoring two of the most renowned dancers in the world, Judith Jamison and Mikhail Baryshnikov and celebrating the musical genius of the late Duke Ellington 1899-1974).
For Bird--With Love
Mr. Ailey’s theme is the artist in conflict with society, as the ballet depicts the life of legendary jazz musician Charlie Parker. In this theatrically impressive section filled with elaborate props, costumes and sets, Charlie Parker invites Dizzy Gillepsie to a club, and highlights a snapshot of the duo’s real-life relationship.
Love Songs, a three-part technical and dramatic tour-de-force originally created for the legendary Dudley Williams, is often viewed as the male counterpart to Cry. This lyrical solo offers an emotional journey through love and longing, set to a suite of songs recorded by Donny Hathaway and Nina Simone.
In the tumultuous time of 1979 when Mr. Ailey’s great, perennial friend from his Lester Horton days, choreographer Joyce Trisler, died prematurely, he began choreographing Memoria. Later, he wrote, “Memoria is about Joyce’s life, my memories of her, my image of her. Although these are very abstract images, nobody has ever asked me what Memoria is about. People everywhere understand it. Making the dance was a very deep and wrenching experience for me.”