Every December, the dancers of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre fill the City Center stage, night after night, with their joy, very, and technical prowess. Traditionally, most of those performances end with "Revelations," Ailey's signature work from 1960. Ailey's virtual season kicks off, on Dec. 2, with an online gala, featuring excerpts from "Revelations," filmed outdoors at Wave Hill, in the Bronx.
The Alvin Ailey Dance Theater has become a cultural landmark in the world of dance. For the last six decades, dancers from the iconic company have performed signature masterpieces all over the globe. Now as we celebrate the holidays during these unprecedented times, the theater debuts its first virtual engagement to honor one of its classic ballets called Revelations.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is the latest company to move ahead with new work while performing arts spaces remain almost completely shut down in New York. The troupe's monthlong December season will include a world premiere from Jamar Roberts, Ailey's choreographer in residence, and the debut of a collaborative response to Alvin Ailey's "Revelations" by Matthew Rushing, Clifton Brown and Yusha-Marie Sorzano.
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.
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.
Since 2013, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has appeared annually at Lincoln Center's David H. Koch Theater. This year is the exception, somewhat. As part of its Ailey All Access series of online presentations, begun March 30 in the wake of the pandemic, the troupe has been working on ways to still offer a June season of a sort. Before the theater shutdown, live performances had been scheduled for June 10 to 14. Instead, starting this Thursday at 8 p.m. EDT, viewers at home will be able to stream a four-part mixed bill, performed on the Koch stage, the was filmed in 2015.
It’s a simple photograph: a young man staring directly into the camera, arms folded. In the image captured in 1962, dance maestro Alvin Ailey looks defiant. Rhea Combs also sees something else when she looks at the black-and-white image. To her, the fact that photographer Jack Mitchell captured the performer shirtless is a visual metaphor, as if Ailey is telling the viewer, “I’m just baring my chest to the world and giving my all,” Combs said.
Modern dance impresario Alvin Ailey once asked photographer Jack Mitchell to shoot publicity images of his dancers for their next performance without even knowing the title of their new work. Seeing “choreography” in the images Mitchell produced, Ailey leapt into an ongoing professional relationship with Mitchell. “I think that speaks to the trust that they had in one another,” says Rhea Combs, a curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. Ailey “knew it would work out somehow, some way.” This partnership, which began in the 1960s, led to the production of more than 10,000 memorable images, and the museum has now made those photos available online.
For 47 years, Masazumi Chaya has overseen Alvin Ailey's dancers - and now he's ready to move on. Masazumi Chaya, a doctor and nurse's son from Japan, expected to go to medical school. But at 17, he took a jazz-dance class and started performing on TV shows there. By 21, he wondered just how good a dancer he really was. He wanted to test himself - so he went to New York.
Masazumi Chaya starts off an interview in his office on the subject of food, recalling when he used to cook meals for his fellow Company members, including his especially popular chicken with ginger soy sauce. With his warmth, enthusiasm, and easy sense of humor, Chaya (as he is known) seems like an ideal dinner companion. The primary recipe that Chaya has developed is the singular position - Associate Artistic Director - which he has decided to relinquish following this City Center season after nearly 3 decades.