Black History Month Spotlight: Alvin Ailey

Hello Readers –

This has been a very long hiatus. I’ve missed you! Tell me things about your life. How was your 2016? How is your 2017? Hopefully a little more joyous now that I’m posting again 🙂

In the US (and I just learned Canada), February is Black History Month. Fun fact: The UK observes Black History Month in October. In Washington DC, the Kennedy Center celebrates Black History Month through an annual engagement with the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater. Founded in 1958, the Company is one of the premier modern dance companies. In 2008, Congress designated the Company “a vital American cultural ambassador to the world” that celebrates and honors the African-American cultural experience and enriches the American modern dance heritage.

This year, tickets to every performance in DC were sold out. Although I tried to wait in the standby line Saturday night, I was unsuccessful. However, I wasn’t too upset because I’ve seen the company twice before. Additionally, this was also my second year attending the open workshop led by Nasha Thomas, a former Alvin Ailey dancer and National Director of AileyCamp. In the workshop, you learn three sections of choreography along with the history of the specific pieces. Last year, my group was even invited on stage for two seconds of fame.

At the Kennedy Center, every performance ends with Ailey’s most renowned work, Revelations. The work is based on Ailey’s “blood memories” and tells the story of the African American. Organized in three distinct sections, it chronicles the journey of “black people’s sorrow” inspired by slavery and the Great Depression, baptism and purification, and finally fervor and jubilation.

More people have seen Revelations than any other modern dance work, and it has been enjoyed by over 23 million people in 71 countries across six continents.

The first and even second time I saw Revelations, I could clearly see a story being woven however I didn’t understand the background or the deeper significance. After attending the workshop and hearing what the piece represents, I have much greater appreciation for it. It is in fact a masterpiece.

Fun facts about Revelations

  • When first choreographed in 1960, Revelations was performed with only six dancers and lasted over one hour.
  • In 1962, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater was chosen to go on an extensive international tour as part of President John F. Kennedy’s progressive “President’s Special International Program for Cultural Presentations.”
  • Relevations was performed at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, although not by the Alvin Ailey Company.

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite parts of Revelations: the male trio, Sinnerman.
Hope you enjoy!

Sources: The Washington Post, Alvin Ailey Website

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