Ailey Digs Into the Past While Surging in the Present

May 27, 2014




For its June season at Lincoln Center, the Ailey company is reaching into the deep past with the premiere of its revival of Asadata Dafora’s Awassa Astrige/Ostrich from 1932. Also known simply as Ostrich Dance, it’s an early example of putting African-inspired movements onto the concert stage. While nearly all Harlem was dancing in ballrooms, Asadata Dafora, a West African immigrant, was creating works for the concert stage.

In some ways Dafora was a precursor to Alvin Ailey. As John Perpener points out in his book African American Concert Dance, Dafora wanted to devote his dances (and music) to “the distinctive beauty of African art and culture.” The ostrich solo is rich with full spine undulations and pounce-like jumps.


Meanwhile, three thrilling contemporary works are also on the docket for this season. If you haven’t seen Wayne McGregor’s Chroma, Aszure Barton’s LIFT, or Bill T. Jones’ D-Man in the Waters, you are in for a sizzle. Chroma is a blast of almost futuristic virtuosity, and D-Man is positively heroic. Last December in my editorial column on “The New Ailey” I talked about the searing, pulsing vitality of Barton’s LIFT, commissioned for that season.

Rest assured there will be plenty of Ailey mainstays: Ron Brown’s uplifting Grace, Ohad Naharin’s exhilarating Minus 16, and, of course, Ailey’s beloved Revelations.

June 11–22 at the Koch Theater. Click here to learn more.


Photos from top: Ailey in Ron Brown’s
Grace; Rachael McLaren and Kirven Douthit-Byod in Chroma. Photos by Paul Kolnik, courtesy Ailey.