Press Release: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
ALVIN AILEY AMERICAN DANCE THEATER MAKES THEIR LONG AWAITED RETURN TO WHITE BIRD, PERFORMING TWO DIFFERENT PROGRAMS FEATURING WORKS BY ARTISTIC DIRECTOR ROBERT BATTLE, TWYLA THARP, TALLEY BEATTY, HOPE BOYKIN, AND KYLE ABRAHAM.
BOTH PROGRAMS CULMINATE IN AILEY’S MASTERPIECE, REVELATIONS.
“If you haven’t seen Alvin Ailey, you haven’t seen dance… the most exciting dance company in the world,”
–The Huffington Post
After a 7-year absence, White Bird is proud to present Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, recognized by Congress as a vital American “Cultural Ambassador to the World” They will bring their 32 extraordinary dancers to Portland with a diverse repertory which shines light on social issues, celebrates the jazz legend Ella Fitzgerald, and honors the legacy of the company’s founder Alvin Ailey, with his masterpiece Revelations. Led by the expansive vision of Robert Battle, the company was proclaimed as “more electrifying than ever,” by the Chicago Sun-Times, and remains one of the world’s most beloved dance companies.
The company grew from a now-fabled March 1957 performance in New York that altered the perception of American modern dance for good. Founded by Alvin Ailey, who posthumously won the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has now performed for over 25 million people in 71 countries on 6 continents. Judith Jamison took over as director in 1989 and passed the role on to Robert Battle in July of 2011. The company promotes the uniqueness of the African-American cultural experience and preserves the enrichment of the American modern dance tradition. The 2018 North American Tour, stopping at 21 cities, including Portland, follows their acclaimed five-week season at New York City Center last December.
With two different programs, both culminating in Revelations, the Company will transport the Portland audience with new productions and repertory favorites alike. The Tuesday evening program includes Stack-Up, by Talley Beatty; r-Evolution, Dream by veteran company member Hope Boykin; and Revelations. The Wednesday evening program includes Untitled America, by Kyle Abraham; The Golden Selection, by Twyla Tharp; Ella by Robert Battle; and Revelations.
Stack-Up, created in 1982 by Talley Beatty, is set to a throbbing beat of 70s classics by Earth, Wind & Fire, Grover Washington Jr., Fearless Four, and Alphonze Mouzon. Originally inspired by Los Angeles’ urban landscape and the lives of its disparate inhabitants, the piece depicts the emotional “traffic” in a community that is stacked on top of each other. This work is tough and brutal, yet poignant, as the stage comes alive with street life and break dancing. r-Evolution, Dream. was choreographed by veteran company member Hope Boykin in 2016, and is inspired by the speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as well as Boykin’s personal immersion in historical material at the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta. It is set to new musical compositions by Ali Jackson (Jazz at Lincoln Center), and features a narration by Leslie Odom, Jr. who originated the role of Aaron Burr in Hamilton on Broadway.
Concluding the Tuesday program as well as Wednesday program, and performed by two different casts, is Alvin Ailey’s masterwork Revelations, a cultural treasure beloved by generations of fans. Revelations was created when Ailey was only 29 years old and premiered at the 92nd Street YM-YWHA on January 31, 1960. It has since been performed countless times around the world. It was part of Opening Ceremonies of the 1968 Olympics, and has been presented at the White House on numerous occasions, including at the inaugurations of Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. The work is an intimate reflection that explores the emotional spectrum of the human condition, from the deepest of grief to the holiest joy. Using African-American religious spirituals, this suite is a classic tribute to the resolve and determination of a people.
The Wednesday program begins with Untitled America, a haunting three-part suite choreographed by MacArthur “Genius” Kyle Abraham and illuminates the impact of the prison system on African-American families. The New York Times called Abraham’s movement vocabulary a “rich mix of street and studio suggesting a body at war with itself. [It is] potent and explosive and wonderfully of the moment.” The work features interviews by those impacted by incarceration. Dance Magazine praised Untitled America, saying “This is something our culture should be looking at… Kudos to Ailey—and Abraham—for keeping the revelations relevant.”
The Golden Section is one of Tony Award-winning choreographer Twyla Tharp’s stand-alone works, celebrated for its blissful joy. Created in 1983 and premiering with the Ailey company in 2017, The Golden Section is set to a propulsive score by David Byrne. It pushes the limits of human physicality as Ailey dancers soar in Tharp’s daring, driving choreography with breathtaking leaps and finely-honed partnering.
Originally created as a solo in 2008 by Ailey’s Artistic Director Robert Battle, Ella was reinvented as a duet by the Ailey company for its December 2016 Opening Night Gala benefit, “An Evening of Ailey and Jazz”- in anticipation of the legendary singer Ella Fitzgerald’s centennial in April 2017. Ella matches the iconic singer’s virtuosic scatting with lighting fast, articulated movement in an irresistible tour-de-force that leaves the audience (and dancers) breathless. It was described by the Miami Herald as a “thoroughly enjoyable and dizzyingly constructed duet.”
Born in Rogers, Texas on January 5, 1931, Alvin Ailey was introduced to dance by performances of the Katherine Dunham Dance Company and the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. His formal dance training began with an introduction to Lester Horton’s classes by his friend, Carmen de Lavallade. Although he created 79 ballets over his lifetime, Alvin Ailey maintained that his company was not exclusively a repository for his own work. Today, the Company continues Mr. Ailey’s mission by presenting important works of the past and commissioning new ones. In all, more than 200 works by over 80 choreographers are part of the Ailey company’s repertoire. Before his untimely death in 1989, he passed his leadership role as Artistic Director to Judith Jamison, who continued on fulfilling his vision, bringing the company to unprecedented success.
Robert Battle became Artistic Director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in July 2011 after being personally selected by Judith Jamison, making him only the third person to head the Company since it was founded in 1958. Mr. Battle has a long-standing association with the Ailey organization. A frequent choreographer and artist-in-residence at Ailey since 1999, he has set many of his works on Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Ailey II, and at The Ailey School. In addition to expanding the Ailey repertory with works by artists as diverse as Kyle Abraham, Ronald K. Brown, Christopher Wheeldon, Rennie Harris, Hofesh Schechter, Jiří Kylián, Ohad Naharin, and Paul Taylor, Mr. Battle has also instituted the New Directions Choreography Lab to help develop the next generation of choreographers.
Mr. Battle’s journey to the top of the modern dance world began in the Liberty City neighborhood of Miami, Florida. He showed artistic talent early and studied dance at a high school arts magnet program before moving on to Miami’s New World School of the Arts, and finally to the dance program at The Juilliard School. He danced with the Parsons Dance Company from 1994 to 2001, and also set his choreography on that company starting in 1998. Mr. Battle then founded his own Battleworks Dance Company in 2002. Mr. Battle was honored as one of the “Masters of African-American Choreography” by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 2005, and he received the prestigious Statue Award from the Princess Grace Foundation-USA in 2007. In October 2015, Simon & Schuster published MY STORY, MY DANCE: Robert Battle’s Journey to Alvin Ailey, an inspiring children’s book based on Mr. Battle’s life.
White Bird’s 20th season (2017-18) is supported by the Regional Arts & Culture Council, including support from the City of Portland, Multnomah County and the Arts Education & Access Fund; Work for Art; The James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust, Oregon Arts Commission, Oregon Cultural Trust, PGE Foundation and Starseed Foundation.