Ailey: The Revelation of Relevance

Linda Celeste Sims in Wayne McGregor's Chroma. Photo by Paul Kolnik

Now in the midst of its 45th-annual season at New York City Center, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has expanded its repertoire to be more versatile artistically. It boasts four world premieres, two company premieres and five new productions. The dancers have to be strong physically and mentally. And they have to be ready for relevance.

The current repertoire, under the direction of Robert Battle,  ranges from Ailey classics like Blues Suite and Revelations to the stretched, wacked-out Chroma by Wayne McGregor; from Rennie Harris’ house-dancing Exodus to Robert Battle’s edifying new Awakening; from Judith Jamison’s sensual A Case of You (one of my faves) to Aszure Barton’s tribal LIFT; from Christopher Wheeldon’s spare After the Rain to Paul Taylor’s spicy Piazzola Caldera. Many styles, many moods, many textures.

But the dancers also have to be ready for socially wrenching work. Kyle Abraham’s new Untitled America: First Movement takes account of racial issues like the preponderance of black men being incarcerated. (The second and third movements will be developed in the next two years.) A couple weeks ago, Dance Magazine interviewed Chalvar Monteiro about dancing in Kyle Abraham’s new piece.

Jacqueline Green in Kyle Abraham's Untitled America First Movement. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

As Monteiro says, “To have an institution of this magnitude that celebrates culture, especially black culture—what it is to be black right now in the world. It’s super important to take away the veil and talk about the things that aren’t so pretty about the place we call home.”

This could have been said back in 1961 when Alvin Ailey created Revelations. That masterpiece was relevant to Ailey’s own experience growing up in the South; it has since become less specific and more general about transcending suffering; its universality is recognized all over the world. Now Kyle Abraham’s piece focuses on the specific: in this case, the truth about the huge numbers of nonviolent black men who are sent to prison. This is something our culture should be looking at, and Abraham has found a way to do that. Kudos to Ailey—and Abraham—for keeping the revelations relevant.

For more about the season, which lasts until January 3, click here.

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Still frrom Shobana Jeyasingh's Contagion, courtesy Sadler's Wells

This Free Online Festival Showcases the Crème de la Crème of the U.K. Dance Scene

As most theaters across the world remain closed, London's contemporary dance hub Sadler's Wells and cultural broadcaster BBC Arts have come together to produce a day-long digital dance festival on January 28.

Dancing Nation will showcase 15 new and beloved works by world-class, U.K.-based companies and choreographers over three hour-long, pre-recorded segments. Highlights will include Akram Khan and Natalia Osipova performing together for the first time in Mud of Sorrow: Touch, a new work inspired by Khan's 2006 duet with Sylvie Guillem; Matthew Bourne's New Adventures' seminal 1988 work Spitfire; and Shobana Jeyasingh's timely restaging of Contagion, which explores the spread of the virus that caused the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918.

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February 2021