Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Announces 20th Annual Celebration At NJPAC
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater returns to New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) for their 20th annual performance run on Mother's Day Weekend from May 11-13. The three-show celebration is the culmination of the company's 21-city North American tour. Artistic Director Robert Battle leads Ailey's 32 extraordinary dancers as they continue the company's legacy of using the African-American cultural experience and the American modern dance tradition to uplift, unite, and enlighten. Three diverse and exciting programs spotlighting premieres and new productions by influential choreographic voices will inspire audiences at Prudential Hall, all closing with a stirring finale of Alvin Ailey's always must-see American masterpiece, Revelations.
On Friday, May 11, the Ailey Jazz program presents the NJPAC debut of Ailey star Jamar Roberts' Members Don't Get Weary - his first world premiere for the company, which he joined in 2002. Roberts says the work is "a response to the current social landscape in America," and "takes an abstract look into the notion of one 'having the blues.'" Set to the powerful music of the legendary jazz saxophonist and composer John Coltrane 50 years after his death, the work aims to allow the audience to momentarily transcend their own personal blues. Also featured are Robert Battle's gripping solo In/Side, set to the vivid emotions of Nina Simone's "Wild is the Wind," and Night Creature, a bubbly champagne cocktail of a dance fusing Alvin Ailey's buoyant choreography and Duke Ellington's sparkling music. One of Mr. Ailey's most popular works and a definitive homage to "The Duke," who said, "night creatures, unlike stars, do not come OUT at night -- they come ON, each thinking that, before the night is out, he or she will be the star."
The Saturday, May 12 program, Musical Inspirations, features Robert Battle's Company Premiere Mass, an ensemble work that gives physical life to a haunting score by frequent collaborator John Mackey, and Ella, an irresistible high-energy duet with lightning-fast movement that matches the iconic Ella Fitzgerald's virtuosic scatting in a live concert recording of "Airmail Special." Tribute is paid to modern dance pioneer Talley Beatty during his centennial with the return of Stack-Up, set to vibrant 1970s beats (Earth, Wind & Fire, Grover Washington Jr., Fearless Four, and Alphonze Mouzon) and a graffiti background. Inspired by Los Angeles' urban landscape and the lives of its disparate inhabitants, the work depicts the emotional "traffic" in a community that is stacked on top of each other. Saturday's performance ends with an encore of Revelations.
For Mother's Day on Sunday, May 13, Celebrate Women spotlights a new production of Urban Bush Women founder Jawole Willa Jo Zollar's Shelter - a gripping portrait of homelessness returning to the Ailey stage after 25 years. Set to an inventive score featuring drumming by Junior "Gabu" Wedderburn, poetry by Hattie Gossett and Laurie Carlos, it includes an updated text by Zollar and Paloma McGregor that references recent natural disasters. Fittingly, the performance will feature Alvin Ailey's classic tour-de-force solo Cry, created in 1971 on his stunning muse Judith Jamison as a birthday present for his mother. The physically and emotionally demanding 16-minute solo is dedicated to "all black women everywhere - especially our mothers." A performance of veteran company member Hope Boykin's r-Evolution, Dream. will celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 50 years after his assassination. Inspired by Dr. King's sermons and speeches the large ensemble work melds creative storytelling, new music composed by Ali Jackson (Jazz at Lincoln Center), and historic and original writings narrated by Tony Award winner Leslie Odom, Jr. (Hamilton). The weekend ends with another encore performance of Revelations.
Since its creation in 1960, Revelations has been seen by more audiences around the world than any other modern work, inspiring generations through its powerful storytelling and soul-stirring spirituals. Springing from Ailey's childhood memories of growing up in the south and attending services at Mount Olive Baptist Church in Texas, Revelations pays homage to the rich cultural heritage of the African-American and explores the emotional spectrum of the human condition. Revelations has been performed as part of Opening Ceremonies of the 1968 Olympics, for six sitting presidents at various events, at the inaugurations of Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, and at The White House Dance Series: A Tribute to Judith Jamison, presented by then First Lady Michelle Obama. Acknowledging its lasting significance after five decades, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution recognizing the artistic and cultural contributions of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the 50th Anniversary of the first performance of Revelations. Hailed by The New York Times as "modern dance's unquestionable greatest hit," this American masterpiece was choreographed when Alvin Ailey was only 29 years old, and is as relevant now as ever.
Educational Offerings for the Community In addition to the performances during the tour, the Ailey organization offers training programs and arts-in-education activities for all, furthering Alvin Ailey's belief that "the dance came from the people and that it should always be delivered back to the people."
In collaboration with Newark Public Schools and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, AileyCamp Newark is an innovative summer program helping underserved youth reach their full potential serving approximately 100 Newark-area middle school students annually. From July 2 - August 10, AileyCamp Newark will use the power of disciplined dance training, creative writing instruction, and personal development and communication workshops to provide a highly motivating experience for at-risk youth. Participants also attend Ailey's NJPAC performances after completing the program, which is provided at no cost to the campers or their families and helps youth develop their self-confidence in an atmosphere of warmth, respect, and trust.
The Ailey School, the official school of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater offering world-class dance training to students ages 2-25, will hold auditions for the 2018-2019 academic programs as well as the 2018 summer intensive in conjunction with the tour, in New York on Sunday, April 8 and Sunday, April 15. A Horton Workshop will be held on Friday, April 6 prior to the auditions. Annually, The Ailey School trains more than 3,500 students, providing a variety of scholarship opportunities and offering over 400 classes every week. The diversity of its training, together with individualized mentorship, extensive performance opportunities, and support services, is what sets The Ailey School apart from every other dance academy. More than half of the dancers in the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater studied at The Ailey School. For further information regarding the audition schedule, please click here.
NJPAC audiences are invited to enjoy the "Ticket to Dance" promotion during their next visit to New York City. The offer allows audience members to try their first Ailey Extension class FREE with an Ailey performance ticket stub (offer is good for 60 days from the performance date for first time students, and when purchasing a 10-class card for returning students). The Ailey Extension offers more than classes in 25 dance and fitness techniques for people of all levels at Ailey's home, The Joan Weill Center for Dance - New York's largest building dedicated to dance - which expanded in the fall of 2017 with the addition of The Elaine Wynn & Family Education Wing. The upward expansion adds three stories to the west side of the building, including four spacious new dance studios, two flexible classrooms, and more. The addition increases Ailey's total class offerings to more than 500 per week, an increase of 20% since the start of the project, making it possible for more students of all levels and ages to "join in the dance."
Nearly 60 years after its founding, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater continues to move forward under the leadership of Robert Battle, revealing once again why it remains one of the world's most beloved dance companies. Come see why The Huffington Post proclaimed, "If you haven't seen Alvin Ailey, you haven't seen dance ... the most exciting dance company in the world," and The Chicago Sun-Times called the company "more electrifying than ever." For more information, visit alvinailey.org. For additional photos and press materials please visit pressroom.alvinailey.org.
The 2018 North American Tour is supported, in part, by the National Endowment for the Arts. The creation of Members Don't Get Weary was supported by commissioning funds from New York City Center. American Express is the lead funder of the production of Shelter.