Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater to Launch 2016 UK Tour
Founded in 1958, the company is recognised by the U.S. Congress as a vital American "Cultural Ambassador to the World." Under the leadership of Artistic Director Robert Battle, Ailey's performances celebrate the human spirit through the African-American cultural experience and the American modern dance tradition. In almost six decades, Ailey's artists have performed for over 25 million people in 71 countries on six continents and continue to wow audiences and critics around the world.
Commenting about the Company's return to the UK, Ailey's Artistic Director Robert Battle said: "I'm proud to continue Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's legacy of extensive international tours with my inaugural visit leading the Company's extraordinary dancers through the United Kingdom. Presented by Dance Consortium six years after they so successfully last welcomed Ailey, we'll share a diverse repertory of works including several UK premieres. I'm excited for audiences old and new to experience the uplifting performances that have inspired people the world over, fulfilling Mr. Ailey's belief that 'Dance came from the people and should always be delivered back to the people."
The UK tour will include UK premieres by some of today's most acclaimed choreographers: the uplifting Exodus by hip hop choreographer Rennie Harris; the spiritual journey of Four Corners by Ronald K. Brown; the Cuban-inspired Open Door by Ronald K. Brown; LIFT by Aszure Barton accentuates the physical prowess of the Ailey dancers; and Robert Battle's powerful Awakening - his first world premiere since becoming Artistic Director.
Company UK premieres include the dreamlike duet After the Rain Pas de Deux by Christopher Wheeldon; and the passionate homage to tango's Argentinian working class roots in Piazzolla Caldera by Paul Taylor.
The company will perform three Ailey Classics during the UK tour: the classic tour-de force female solo Cry by Company founder Alvin Ailey; Night Creature by Alvin Ailey is set to sparkling music by Duke Ellington; and the beloved crowd-pleaser Revelations by Alvin Ailey is the most widely-seen modern dance work in the world and will be performed by the incomparable Ailey dancers in all programmes during the UK tour. Revelations premiered in 1960 and continues to bring audiences all around the world to their feet.
The Ailey UK tour 2016 programme, which is subject to alteration, will be as follows:
Programme A (London, Plymouth, Birmingham, Nottingham, Cardiff, Southampton and Edinburgh): Exodus / Four Corners / After the Rain Pas de Deux / Revelations
Programme B (London, Birmingham and Edinburgh): Open Door / Piazzolla Caldera / Revelations
Programme C (London): LIFT / Awakening / Cry / Revelations
Programme D (Mini Matinee in London & Southampton): Night Creature Excerpt / Revelations
Programme E (Bradford & Canterbury): Exodus / Night Creature / After the Rain Pas de Deux / Revelations
Programme F (Salford Quays): LIFT / Four Corners / Cry / Revelations
Awakening (2015) Choreography by Robert Battle / Music: John Mackey. Battle uses his signature taut, ritualistic choreographic style and a score by composer John Mackey in his first world premiere since becoming artistic director. Buoyed by the complex rhythmic quality of Mackey's music (Turning and The Attentions of Souls, the third movement from the symphony Wine-Dark Sea) and a cast of a dozen of Ailey's extraordinary dancers, Battle's work leads the audience on a cathartic journey of dissonance and harmony, chaos and resolution.
Exodus (2015) Choreography by Rennie Harris / Music: Original compositions by Raphael Xavier, "A New Deal" by Ost & Kjex. Acclaimed hip-hop choreographer Rennie (Lorenzo) Harris created a work that explores the idea of "exodus" - from one's ignorance and conformity - as a necessary step toward enlightenment. Set to gospel and house music along with spoken word, the work underscores the crucial role of action and movement in effecting change. Exemplifying his view of hip hop as a "celebration of life", Exodus marks Harris' latest invitation to return to spiritual basics and affirm who we are. His previous contributions to the Ailey repertory include Home (2011) and Love Stories (2004), Judith Jamison's dynamic collaboration with Harris and Robert Battle.
Four Corners (2013) Choreographer: Ronald K. Brown / Music: Carl Hancock Rux, Yacoub & Various Artists. Four Corners brings to life the vision of four angels standing on the four corners of the earth holding the four winds. Drawing inspiration from the lyrics of Rux's Lamentations, Four Corners trails 11 dancers as they rise to seek a life of peace on the "mountaintop"; a powerful and hope-filled journey of tribulation, devotion and triumph.
LIFT (2013) Choreography: Aszure Barton / Original Music: Curtis Macdonald. LIFT is by in-demand choreographer Aszure Barton and marked her first commission for Ailey. The work accentuates the vitality and physical prowess of the Ailey Company, driven by the dancers' passion, skill and collective power. LIFT was created over a 5-week developmental process with the entire Company. The original percussive score, composed by Curtis Macdonald, is infused with the infectious energy and heart that she observed in her initial encounters with the Ailey dancers. With a collaborative stylistic approach that constantly evolves like no other, Barton's exhilarating work celebrates and challenges the dancers with its markedly intricate rhythmic patterns and mercurial structure.
Open Door (2015). Choreography by Ronald K. Brown / Music: Arturo O'Farrill and the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra. Acclaimed choreographer Ronald K. Brown's Cuban-inspired Open Door is a work for 10 dancers set to the music of Arturo O'Farrill and the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, including their recent Grammy-Award winning album Cuba: The Conversation Continues. Brown's travels to Cuba inspired much of the movement, from the salsa partnering to the references to Elegba - the Santería god who opens pathways. A testament to the power of dance and music as vehicles for culture and compassion, Open Door marked Brown's sixth work for the Company.
Company UK premieres
After the Rain Pas de Deux (2005 / Ailey Company Premiere 2014) Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon / Music: Arvo Pärt. An instant hit at New York City Ballet in 2005, Christopher Wheeldon's dreamlike duet - praised for its sublime simplicity and intricate partnering - is revealed in a fresh light as the Ailey dancers make it their own. Set to music by the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, the sensual male?female pas de deux has resonated deeply with audiences and marked the first work by Christopher Wheeldon to enter the Ailey repertory.
Piazzolla Caldera (1997 / Ailey Company Premiere 2015) Choreography by Paul Taylor / Music: Astor Piazzolla and Jerzy Peterburshsky. Set to music by Astor Piazzolla and Jerzy Peterburshsky, Piazzolla Caldera is a finely wrought work sizzling with erotic energy by modern dance master Paul Taylor that captures the essence of tango culture. Men and women engage in a series of fiery encounters, in turns playful and predatory, in vivid duets and trios through the work's four sections, in this passionate homage to tango's Argentinian working class roots.
Cry (1971 / New Production 2015) Choreography by Alvin Ailey / Music: Alice Coltrane, Laura Nyro, Voices of East Harlem. In 1971, Alvin Ailey choreographed the ballet Cry, as a birthday present for his mother Mrs. Lula Cooper, and created the dance on his stunning muse, Judith Jamison. It was an instant sensation and went on to become an enduring work of American art. This physically and emotionally demanding 16-minute solo is dedicated to "all black women everywhere - especially our mothers." The solo is made up of three parts -the first set to Alice Coltrane's Something about John Coltrane, the second to Laura Nyro's Been on a Train and the last has the Voices of East Harlem singing Right On, Be Free. Ms. Jamison, who has since taught the treasured role to subsequent generations of Ailey women, wrote of the work in her autobiography Dancing Spirit: "In my interpretation, she represented those women before her who came from the hardships of slavery, through the pain of losing loved ones, through overcoming extraordinary depressions and tribulations. Coming out of a world of pain and trouble, she has found her way-and triumphed."
Night Creature (1974) Choreographer: Alvin Ailey / Music: Duke Ellington. Combining modern dance, classical ballet and jazz, Night Creature is a perfect fusion of Alvin Ailey's buoyant choreography and Duke Ellington's sparkling music. Duke Ellington first composed the phenomenal Suite For Orchestra in 1955, later adding the second and third movements in 1963. He said that "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." This large ensemble work is full of such stars - strutting, leaping and slinking jazz babies and night owls. Night Creature is the definitive Ailey homage to the exuberance of The Duke's jazz, and remains one of Mr. Ailey's most popular works.
Revelations (1960) Choreography by Alvin Ailey / Music: Traditional Spirituals. More than just a popular dance work, Revelations has become a cultural treasure, beloved by generations of fans. An American classic acclaimed as a must-see for all, Alvin Ailey's signature masterpiece is a tribute to his heritage and genius. Using African-American spirituals, the work fervently explores the places of deepest grief and holiest joy in the soul. Seeing Revelations 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.
In London and Southampton, Ailey's Mini Matinee is the perfect introduction to the company's repertoire. Aimed at family audiences, Mini Matinees are 60 minutes long and include short introductions before each work and a post-performance Q&A with members of the company.