The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre (AAADT) is just one of a number of dance institutions and artists generously sharing their talents online during this challenging time as they demonstrate that though “these are the times that try men’s (and women’s) souls” art offers solace.
AAADT Artistic Director Robert Battle captured that spirit by announcing an online initiative: “Alvin Ailey created the ultimate prayer about overcoming adversity through hope and faith. During this period, it is fitting that we are launching Ailey All Access with ‘Revelations’ on the Company’s birthday. I know in my heart that he would be proud to see that we are taking on a challenge and seizing an opportunity to explore new ways of lifting up hearts, minds and spirits with the transformative power of dance.”
Battle recently introduced the online broadcast of the first performance of Ailey’s time-honored masterpiece, “Revelations” which included commentary from Ailey dancers. The program was preceded by a workshop led by the AAADT’s inimitable Hope Boykin teaching excerpts of “Revelations” to viewers who were also invited to join in and share videos with their own expressive moves or words at #MyRevelations.
That was just the beginning of an online moveable feast we can expect to enjoy in the days ahead.
The company began posting regularly scheduled weekly performances each Thursday starting last week, April 2 at 7 p.m. ET, with rising stars of Ailey II in works by two choreographers from the Ailey family—Saa Magni, a passionate and intimate duet by Ailey company member Yannik Lebrun which deals with mourning and solace and is set to music by Malian singer Oumou Sangare, a high-energy dance titled “Where There Are Tongues” by South African-born Bradley Shelver, is inspired by the idea that we are all in this world together and set to the rhythmically complex music of the French a cappella group Lo Còr De La Plana.
On Thursday, April 9, the company presents Artistic Director Emerita Judith Jamison’s masterful work “Divining.” Set to soul-stirring African polyrhythms and filled with complex dynamic movement, this dance is a joy to behold in these challenging times. And, if that isn’t proof that the AAADT is the gift that keeps giving, future online broadcasts will include Camille A. Brown’s “City of Rain” and Rennie Harris’ “Lazarus.”
The desire to find ways to sooth our souls didn’t just happen overnight. The Ailey dancers started creating short films and a variety of other content with the help of curator and dancer Danica Paulos the minute they returned home after the company’s tour was suspended due to COVID-19. In fact, Ailey company members shared a video on Instagram that helped us remember that we’re all in this together declaring “We are off tour but we will not stop dancing! We put together a cast of ‘Buked’ from Alvin Ailey’s ‘Revelations’ for your #DigitalDancing enjoyment. Let us know in the comments which pieces you want to see us dance together next! Much love to all, stay safe and healthy.”
On top of that, dancer Jessica Amber Pinkett reminded us how to be creative and find enjoyment throughout a New York apartment with a video dancing a piece that makes your body smile, Artistic Director Robert Battle’s “Ella.”