by Ann Greer
The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is at the Kennedy Center for its annual engagement, and is sold out for the week. A friend, a former dancer, accompanied me to a performance. She took classes with Ailey teachers, and told me she felt the energetic pull as she approached the company’s Upper West Side studio, and heard the vibrant sound of music and drums.
AAADT in Jamar Roberts' Members Dont Get Weary
Founded by Alvin Ailey in 1958, the company started out as an all black ensemble, but within a few years Ailey brought on dancers from other backgrounds. Today its 32 dancers reflect a global society. These highly trained men and women dance with skill, pride, and generosity; their work often looks at the African American experience as one of the foundations of American culture.
AAADT in Robert Battle's Mass
During February, African American History Month, the company will perform in Birmingham, Alabama. Artistic Director Robert Battle said before the performance that he plans to visit Selma and walk across the Pettus Bridge, where armed police attacked Civil Rights Movement demonstrators in 1965. Some of the dancers are interested in joining him.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Alvin Ailey's Revelations
The program I saw comprised the D.C. premiere of “Members Don’t Get Weary,” choreographed by longtime company dancer Jamar Roberts, with music by jazz saxophonist John Coltrane; a new staging of Twyla Tharp’s “The Golden Section” with a rock score by David Byrne; and Ailey’s signature 1960 piece, “Revelations,” choreographed to traditional spirituals. The music provides a framework and another American art form.
AAADT's Jamar Roberts in Twyla Tharp's The Golden Section
Strength, control, beauty – the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is America at is best.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performs at the Kennedy Center through February 11, 2018. kennedy-center.org or 202-467-4600.
Photos by Paul Kolnik.
Ann Greer has covered culture in the DC region for The Washington Post, Capitol File magazine, and WAMU-FM, among others. She was the first online theater critic in the DC region, for AOL Digital City Washington.