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Kennedy Center to Present Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

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The company’s performances include 13 works along with Alvin Ailey’s American masterpiece Revelations, which will be performed as the finale for all seven programs.

Kennedy Center to Present Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

The acclaimed Ailey American Dance Theater returns February 1-6 to the Kennedy Center Opera House stage, led by Robert Battle on his 10th anniversary as Artistic Director, with seven performances featuring a mix of new productions, a D.C. premiere, and enduring favorites.

During the Center's 50th anniversary season, Ailey marks its seventh decade and 50-year relationship with the Center. The eponymous company performed in the Center's 1971 opening performance of Leonard Bernstein's MASS, which significantly featured the commission of new choreography by Alvin Ailey. The company has had a long-standing impact on the world of modern dance and a unique role in celebrating the African American cultural experience.

The company's performances include 13 works along with Alvin Ailey's American masterpiece Revelations, which will be performed as the finale for all seven programs. In addition, two of the works were created on video during the COVID-19 pandemic and later staged in-person. A full performance schedule can be found here.

Program One: 50 Years of Cry + New Works

Program one, February 1 and February 5 evenings, includes:

  • Making its Washington, D.C. premiere, Ailey Resident Choreographer Jamar Roberts' Holding Space examines the ways in which we are taking care. Originally created on video during the COVID-19 pandemic and later transferred to in-person performance, this ensemble work asks: in what ways we can collectively accommodate one another to better traverse this new and unprecedented terrain?
  • Another premiere is For Four, a work created on video during the pandemic and later staged in-person, is set to a Wynton Marsalis jazz score written in 4/4 time, capturing the pent-up energy of a world cooped up during the pandemic;
  • Cry, last seen at the Kennedy Center in 2019, is Ailey's beloved classic dedicated to "all Black women everywhere-especially our mothers." The 16-minute solo, which was first danced by Judith Jamison, 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"

Program Two: Classic & Contemporary

Program two, February 2 evening, includes Alvin Ailey's Cry along with:

  • Blues Suite, the ballet that launched AAADT in 1958, features a cast of characters from the barrelhouses and fields of Ailey's southern childhood in rural Texas summoned to dance and revel over the course of a night;
  • Love Stories finale, a standalone piece from Robert Battle's 2004 work of the same name, is a collaboration with former Ailey Artistic Director Emerita Judith Jamison and choreographer Rennie Harris. Inspired by the African concept of "Sankofa," the ballet celebrates the traditions of African American dance and the rich heritage of Alvin Ailey. Featuring the music of Clarence Paul-Henry Cosby, the finale portrays a forward-looking future built on the lessons and legacy of the past.

Program Three: Ailey & Ellington

Program three, February 3 evening and 5 matinee, includes Alvin Ailey's Blues Suite along with three new productions of ballets from Ailey celebrating the musical genius of American composer Duke Ellington:

  • Reflections in D, which highlights the grace of the male dancer in a stunning, masterful expression of Duke Ellington's composition. This piece was originally created for Ailey himself in 1962;
  • The River excerpt, originally choreographed in 1970 for American Ballet Theatre, combines classical ballet, modern dance, and jazz in sections suggesting tumbling rapids and slow currents on a voyage to the great sea, mirroring the journey of human existence; and
  • Pas de Duke excerpt, Ailey's modern dance translation of a classical pas de deux, originally created for two of the most renowned dancers in the world, Judith Jamison and Mikhail Baryshnikov, captures the sophistication of Ellington's jazz music

Program Four: Battle 10th Anniversary

The February 4 evening and February 6 matinee performances highlight works from Battle's tenure as Artistic Director. Performances include the Love Stories finale and For Four in addition to:

  • Unfold, a new production of the work, is one of four ballets that Battle set on the company prior to becoming Artistic Director in 2011. Designed to capture the intensity of one's first love, the duet is set to Leontyne Price's recording of Gustave Charpentier's aria;
  • complex, tightly woven rhythms of Indian Kathak dance are deconstructed and abstracted in Takademe. The percussive, fast-paced work showcases clear shapes and propulsive jumps mimicking the vocalized rhythmic syllables of Sheila Chandra's jazzy score;

and three works last seen on the Kennedy Center stage in 2018:

  • Mass, a 2004 work commissioned for The Juilliard School, showcases Battle's signature ritualistic choreography with a score by John Mackey, who has collaborated on multiple occasions with Battle;
  • In/Side, set to Nina Simone's haunting rendition of the Oscar®-nominated song "Wild is the Wind," provides an intimate look at a man's most private struggles. The piece, originally commissioned by Dance New Amsterdam, was created as part of its annual series "In the Company of Men," a celebration of the spirit of male dancers in New York in light of the AIDS epidemic; and
  • Ella, a rarely performed homage to Ella Fitzgerald that was re-staged on the company as a duet in celebration of the centennial of her birth. Set to the legendary vocalist's recording of "Air Mail Special," Ella matches the iconic singer's virtuosic scatting with lightning-fast, articulated movement in an irresistible tour-de-force.

Choreographed when he was only 29 years old, Alvin Ailey's Revelations is an intimate reflection inspired by childhood memories of attending services at Mount Olive Baptist Church in Texas and by the work of writers James Baldwin and Langston Hughes. Set to a suite of traditional spirituals, Revelations explores the emotional spectrum of the human condition, from the deepest of grief to the holiest joy and has been seen by more people around the world than any other modern work.

A visionary choreographer who used his artistry to celebrate his African American heritage and change American dance and culture, Alvin Ailey is the focus of the acclaimed new documentary film AILEY, streaming on PBS and Hulu thru February 11, which explores the man, his work and its powerful legacy which continues today in the inspiring performances of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Dancers from the D.C. metropolitan area include: Ghrai DeVore-Stokes & Jermaine Terry joined in 2010 (Washington, D.C.); Samantha Figgins joined in 2014 (Washington, D.C.); Jacqueline Green joined 2011 (Baltimore, MD); Courtney Celeste Spears joined in 2018 (Baltimore, MD); and Corrin Rachelle Mitchell and Miranda Quinn joined in 2019 (Baltimore, MD).

Ticket Information:

Tickets start at $49. Tickets can be purchased at the Kennedy Center box office or by calling Instant Charge at (202) 467-4600. Patrons living outside the Washington metropolitan area may dial toll-free at (800) 444-1324. For all other ticket-related customer service inquiries, call the Advance Sales Box Office at (202) 416-8540.


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