America’s Greatest Dance Company Returns to the Norton Center with Four Incredible Pieces
Hailed by Dance Magazine as “the most daring artistic director,” Robert Battle proves through four mixed repertory programs that Ailey dancers really can do anything. Come discover what tens of millions of fans already know—you don’t just see an Ailey performance, you feel it.
In exciting new works and traditional favorites, the company showcases its originality and athleticism. Staying true to its beloved history, the company performs Revelations at every performance. Alvin Ailey’s tribute to his African American heritage causes audiences to cheer “before the curtain goes up” (The New York Times). Alvin Ailey’s return to Newlin Hall on March 11 will include the following works:
Choreographed by Rennie Harris
Home, choreographed by bold hip-hop choreographer Rennie Harris, is inspired by the stories of people living with or affected by HIV. Drawing upon poems and images submitted in 2011 to the Fight HIV Your Way contest, an initiative of Bristol-Myers Squibb, Harris created a compelling work that conveys both the chilling isolation and uplifting sense of community many experience.
A pulsing gospel house music score by Dennis Ferrer and Raphael Xavier propels the Company through intricate footwork and rapidly-evolving patterns. During the creation of Home, Artistic Director Robert Battle praised Harris’ contemporary vision, noting that “he is bringing a unique perceptive to stories that absolutely have to be told, and that ought to be realized in a dance vocabulary that comes from a new generation.”
The world premiere of Home took place at New York City Center on December 1, 2011 — World AIDS Day and a date that holds great significance to the Ailey organization, as it is the day that founder Alvin Ailey died from the disease in 1989. Learn more about the stories that inspired this work.
About Rennie Harris:
Lorenzo Rennie Harris was born and raised in an African-American community in North Philadelphia. In 1992, he founded Rennie Harris Puremovement, a hip-hop dance theater company dedicated to preserving and disseminating hip-hop culture. Voted one of the most influential people in the last one hundred years of Philadelphia history, Mr. Harris has received several accolades, including the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts, the Governor’s Arts Award, a United States Artist Fellowship, and an honorary doctorate from Bates College. The London Timeswrote of Mr. Harris that he is “the Basquiat of the U.S. contemporary dance scene.” Most recently, Rennie Harris Puremovement was chosen by DanceMotion USA as one of four companies to serve as citizen diplomats, and they will tour Egypt, Israel, Palestinian territories and Jordan in 2012.
D-MAN IN THE WATERS (PART 1)
Choreographed by Bill T. Jones
In this exhilarating work by Kennedy Center Honoree, MacArthur Grant awardee and Tony Award-winner Bill T. Jones (Fela!, Spring Awakening) rigorous formalism and musicality embody resilience and triumph over loss. The piece captures the infectious energy, innocence and will to survive of a beleaguered generation, and though it deals with sorrow, it maintains a defiantly celebratory tone.
Felix Mendelssohn’s soaring Octet for Strings propels the non-stop momentum, sending the dancers hurling across the stage in a whirlwind of leaps, rolls, and slides. Jones has said that the fact that Mendelssohn was just 16 years old when he composed the work resonated strongly with him. “This piece was created when we were dealing with a lot of death,” he said. “So creating this work was for us a way of dealing with grief, by finding the joy in the music this 16-year-old boy created.”
Jones’ tour-de-force was awarded a New York Dance and Performance (“Bessie”) Award and is praised for being one of the finest examples of the post-modern dance aesthetic. The New York Times called it “a stylish, impassioned outpouring of movement.”
“In a dream you saw a way to survive and you were full of joy.” – conceptual artist Jenny Holzer
Robert Battle’s bravura work mixes humor and high-flying movement in a savvy deconstruction of Indian Kathak dance rhythms. Clear shapes and propulsive jumps mimic the vocalized syllables of Sheila Chandra’s syncopated score. For Battle, the work represents his modest beginnings as a dance-maker and reminds him of how far he’s come. He created Takademe while still a dancer with the Parsons Dance Company, in a living room in Queens, New York. “Most dances have a lot to do with restrictions and problem-solving,” he explains. “And one of the problems was that we didn’t have a lot of space, so the dance stays very stationary. But then when we finally got studio space… the movement travels on a long diagonal. Freedom. I’m always reminded of that as a metaphor for where I am now with Ailey, where there is a remarkable amount of space.”
It’s unlikely that the young choreographer in that Queens apartment could have imagined the distinguished company he’d find himself in when critics embraced his work. “…one can add Battle’s name to the list of brilliant solo choreographers such as Isadora Duncan, Ruth St. Denis, and Ted Shawn,” praised the Los Angeles Times.
About Robert Battle:
Robert Battle became Artistic Director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in July 2011, after being personally selected by Judith Jamison, making him only the third person to head the Company since it was founded in 1958. Mr. Battle has a long-standing association with the Ailey organization. A frequent choreographer and artist-in-residence at Ailey since 1999, he has set many of his works on Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Ailey II, and at The Ailey School. The Company’s current repertory includes his ballets In/Side and Strange Humors. In addition to expanding the Ailey repertory with works by artists as diverse as Paul Taylor, Rennie Harris, Jirí Kylián, Garth Fagan, and Kyle Abraham, Mr. Battle has also instituted the New Directors Choreography Lab to help develop the next generation of choreographers. His journey to the top of the modern dance world began in the Liberty City neighborhood of Miami, Florida. Mr. Battle showed artistic talent early and studied dance at a high school arts magnet program before moving on to Miami’s New World School of the Arts, under the direction of Daniel Lewis and Gerri Houlihan, and finally to the dance program at The Juilliard School, under the direction of Benjamin Harkarvy, where he met his mentor, Carolyn Adams. Read more…
Using African-American spirituals, song-sermons, gospel songs and holy blues, Alvin Ailey’s Revelations fervently explores the places of deepest grief and holiest joy in the soul. More than just a popular dance work, it has become a cultural treasure, beloved by generations of fans. SeeingRevelations for the first time or the hundredth can be a transcendent experience, with audiences cheering, singing along and dancing in their seats from the opening notes of the plaintive “I Been ’Buked” to the rousing “Wade in the Water” and the triumphant finale, “Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham.”
Ailey said that one of America’s richest treasures was the African-American cultural heritage —“sometimes sorrowful, sometimes jubilant, but always hopeful.” This enduring classic is a tribute to that tradition, born out of the choreographer’s “blood memories” of his childhood in rural Texas and the Baptist Church. But since its premiere in 1960, the ballet has been performed continuously around the globe, transcending barriers of faith and nationality, and appealing to universal emotions, making it the most widely-seen modern dance work in the world.
“Every American owes it to him or herself to see the Ailey [company] perform Revelations. It is an American phenomenon. I’ve probably seen it countless times and every time it’s magical and spiritual and hopeful – everything that we want ourselves to be and hope that our country will be.” – Oprah Winfrey on Entertainment Tonight, 12/4/08
About Alvin Ailey:
Alvin Ailey was born on January 5, 1931, in Rogers, Texas. His experiences of life in the rural South would later inspire some of his most memorable works. He was introduced to dance in Los Angeles by performances of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and the Katherine Dunham Dance Company, and his formal dance training began with an introduction to Lester Horton’s classes by his friend Carmen de Lavallade. Horton, the founder of one of the first racially-integrated dance companies in the United States, became a mentor for Mr. Ailey as he embarked on his professional career. After Horton’s death in 1953, Mr. Ailey became director of the Lester Horton Dance Theater and began to choreograph his own works. In the 1950s and 60s, Mr. Ailey performed in four Broadway shows, including House of Flowers and Jamaica.
In 1958, he founded Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater to carry out his vision of a company dedicated to enriching the American modern dance heritage and preserving the uniqueness of the African-American cultural experience. Read more…
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will perform at Centre College’s Norton Center for the Arts on Tuesday, March 11. For tickets please call 1-877-HIT-SHOW or click here to purchase online.