Ailey's Opening Night Gala & Party Launches Five Week Holiday Season

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's holiday season at New York City Center launched on November 30th with an Opening Night Gala Benefit performance and party that honored Diageo, North America, represented by Almaz & Marc S. Strachan. Songwriter, recording artist, and activist Solange Knowles served as the evening's Honorary Chair, and the gala Co-Chairs were Emily & Len Blavatnik, Debra L. Lee, Karen & David Peetz, Almaz & Marc S. Strachan, Daria L. & Eric J. Wallach, and Joan & Sandy Weill. $2.4 million was raised in support of the creation of new works, scholarships to The Ailey School, and Ailey's educational programs for young people.

The one-night-only "An Evening of Ailey and Jazz" program featured Artistic Director Robert Battle's duet Ella, a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald preceding the 100th anniversary of her birth. Other highlights included excerpts of John Butler's Portrait of Billie, a poignant portrayal of Billie Holiday; Talley Beatty's The Road of the Phoebe Snow, set to music by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn; Alvin Ailey's Pas de Duke, set to music by Duke Ellington; and Billy Wilson's The Winter in Lisbon (a 2016 new production), a tribute to Dizzy Gillespie. The inspiring finale was Alvin Ailey's timeless masterpiece Revelations, performed with live musicians and singers, including the legendary Ella Mitchell.

Special guests from the worlds of business, politics, entertainment, and philanthropy included Kyle Abraham, La La Anthony, Maurice Dubois, Savion Glover, Thelma Golden, Efraim Grinberg, Tamron Hall, Dev Hynes, Sheinelle Jones, Glorya Kaufman, Carmen De Lavallade, Ledisi, Terry Lundgren, Michelle Miller, Robin Roberts, Harry Smith, and Elaine Wynn.After the performance, the celebration continued at the Hilton New York's Grand Ballroom where over 1,000 guests joined Robert Battle, Judith Jamison and the stars of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater for dinner and dancing with live music by the dynamic band Élan Artists.

Through the New Year's Eve season finale, Ailey's 32 renowned dancers will captivate audiences with three world premieres, four new productions, one company premiere, and a variety of favorites, classics, and special programs. Ailey's season will continue to excite audiences across North America with a 19-city tour beginning in February. For more information, visit

(Photo Credit: Christopher Duggen)

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