The shadow of Alvin Ailey has always stood over the company he founded in 1958, as an inspiration and a guide. It does so literally here, in the first of three programmes the New York-based troupe is bringing to Sadler’s Wells.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
The Telegraph - Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Programe A, Sadler's Wells, Review: A Stirring And Skin-Pricklingly Exciting Evening
Alvin Ailey was born in rural Texas in 1931. Like so many other African Americans then and since, he experienced frightful racism, but astonishing talent and tenacity allowed him to claw his way up to become one of America's best-loved dancer-choreographers. He founded his own, contemporary troupe - Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater - in 1958 as a vehicle and haven for black Americans who wanted to dance for a living. And, although Ailey himself died in 1989, his company lives on loud and proud, under the sterling directorship of Robert Battle.
In 1958 Alvin Ailey, aware that there were few opportunities for African-American dancers and choreographers, founded a company to tell the stories of black people through movement. Since then the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has become one of the most popular modern ensembles in the world. The company's artistic director, Robert Battle, talks to Kirsty Lang about its history, ambition and that constant difficulty - to get boys to dance.
When Robert Battle goes to visit Dessie Williams, the cousin who raised him, she loves to brag that she always knew he was special. "You didn't have to encourage him to do anything; he did them. He was self-motivated," she said.
Dancer Jacqueline Green started at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's school at age 17, and today is one of the rising stars of the venerable dance company. She told correspondent Rita Braver she credits her success to the company's founder.
Alvin Ailey American Dnace Theater announced Thursday that Jamar Roberts will be the company's first resident choreographer. Mr. Roberts, a veteran company member, will begin his tenure with "Ode," an examination of the value of life in an era of pervasive gun violence. The work for six dancers will debut on Dec. 10 as a part of Ailey's five-week season at New York City Center.
When the choreographer Troy Powell was a student at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's school, more than forty years ago, he was struck, he remembered recently, by "these men that looked like me, these men that danced!" The other night, when he again found himself moved by a young man who looked like him, he was less surprised: Powell had handpicked the boy for the resemblance. The occasion for the body double was Powell's newest work, "Testimony," choreographed for the Ailey School's fiftieth-anniversary gala, at Lincoln Center.
Masazumi Chaya, the associate artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater since 1991, will retire on Jan. 5 after the company's annual City Center season. But he'll still be involved with the organization: After he steps down, Chaya, 72, will be in charge of a licensing project that will assist in the restaging of Ailey's works. Matthew Rushing, a veteran dancer and the company's rehearsal director, will take over as associate artistic director, while Ronni Favors, a former Ailey member, will become the company's rehearsal director. Clifton Brown, a current dancer, will join Linda Celeste Sims as an assistant to the rehearsal director.
Dance is all about balance: long lines, landing exaggerated pirouettes, and maintaining perfect form from head to toe. Often, that sense of balance—of remaining strong and steady through every turn—starts in the ear. Samantha Figgins knows this all too well. A life-saving surgery during infancy left her with unilateral hearing loss, or deafness in one ear (her right). In our latest episode of The Movement, Figgins reveals the life-changing decision that allowed her to hear — and perform — fully, for the very first time.
The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater celebrated the 50th anniversary of The Ailey School with a gala on June 13 at Lincoln Center.