Some dances seem timeless; Jawole Willa Jo Zollar’s Shelter seems perennially timely. Created in 1988 in response to homelessness on the streets of New York, the piece was taken into the repertory of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1992. Zollar adapted it for her company performances in New Orleans, post-Katrina, and the Ailey company revived it again in 2017. Now showing in the online Ailey All Access season, it has become newly urgent during the coronavirus crisis.
Artistic director Robert Battle discusses the dance company's pandemic pivot and debuts the company's new film, "Wade In the Water."
Town & Country - Amazing Grace - Still, We Dance: An Ode To The Deliverance And Joy Of Self-Expression
Every year, in theaters and concert halls around the globe, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater takes audiences to church. Not just any house of worship, but the working-class, Black, Southern temples of rural Texas. The gospel they see and feel is Revelations, the company's signature dance, which has been staged more often than the troupe's other celebrated works, for some 25 million fans. This year Revelations turns 60, and it has lost none of its incantatory power. Against the back-drop of both a global pandemic that disproportionately ravages communities of color and the urgency of social justice movements including Black Lives Matter, Ailey's valentine to the spirituals of his youth is its own call to action, an ode to the deliverance of self-expression in the face of adversity.
Since the pandemic lockdown in March, Battle has been consumed with keeping the company in shape until its dancers can safely return to the stage. From Aug. 6-12, a collaboration among Battle, his predecessor, Judith Jamison, and the choreographer Rennie Harris will stream on Ailey All Access. Battle has recently been considering the organization’s role in the Black Lives Matter movement. “I’ve been thinking a lot about the notion of, before it was a hashtag or a movement, that the Ailey company was demonstrating that Black lives matter in all of the work that we do,” he said. “But it’s almost not enough to live it. You have to say it expressly, that this is what we do and we are in solidarity. It’s not that we need to reinvent the wheel, but we need to roll it.”
One warm spring day in the late nineties, I walked hand in hand with my father as he led our family— my mom, my three siblings, and me—into Houston’s Jones Hall for an Alvin Ailey performance. At eight years old, I was more excited to be wearing my new theater dress for all of Houston to see than I was for the show itself. But that excitement quickly evolved into wonder. I don’t recall the name of the performance we saw, but I distinctly remember feeling admiration and reverence for what the dancers were doing in front of me. Before that day, I’d never seen such a large group of professional Black dancers on stage. Experiencing this performance in my youth was significant; it told me that my people were everywhere, and capable of doing everything.
“Dance came from the people and should always be delivered back to the people,” Alvin Ailey said. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, a key part (but not all of) his legacy, works by this ethos. “Dance is for everybody,” asserts Cathryn Williams, director of Arts in Education and Community Programs at Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation. Amongst many other programs offering dance across the five boroughs of NYC, her department offers AileyDance for Active Seniors.
CBS New York - All These Years Later, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Continues Spreading Message Of Inclusion
While protests across the country call for racial justice, an organization in New York City has been spreading a message of inclusion for decades. And they’ve been doing it through dance. CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis has more on the work of Alvin Ailey. A powerful video was created in the midst of protests, following the death of George Floyd. It featured poetry, paired with a universal language, which at times, says more than words. “We. Dance.” by Hope Boykin. “This was my form of protest. This was the way that I could say it best to honor the organization that had started doing this more than 60 years ago,” Boykin said.
...At the end of May, in a commission from the Guggenheim’s “Works & Process” series, Jamar Roberts produced an extraordinary five-minute dance titled “Cooped.” He choreographed, designed, directed, performed, and shot (on an iPad) this “fever dream,” alone, in a basement, surrounded by shadows that seem to close in on him—an effect ingeniously created by a floor lamp and a flashlight. The tense music was composed, arranged, and performed (remotely) by David Watson (bagpipes) and Tony Buck (drums).
Tulsa's 1921 massacre involved white mobs killing 300 black residents in their uniquely prosperous community. That painful chapter in American history was the focus of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater this season, before it was sprupt interrupted by covid-19 shutdowns. Now with this renewed attention on the Tulsa massacre, the dance group is streaming its Greenwood story starting this week. Artistic Director Robert Battle discusses Donald Byrd’s Greenwood.
FOX5 New York - How Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's 'Theater Of Disruption' Teaches About Racism
Choreographer Donald Byrd uses what he calls "theater of disruption" in his productions. Creating works of dance or theater that "disrupts the thinking of people around the issue of race," he said. And he is waking people up with his production Greenwood. In observance of Juneteenth, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is streaming the production online through Thursday, June 25. Through dance, Greenwood tells the horrific story of the 1921 race massacre in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Greenwood was a section of Tulsa and one of the most affluent black communities in the country. It was known as Black Wall Street. But white residents, angered by black progress, burned down homes and businesses and killed as many as 300 black residents.