Tag: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Alvin Ailey To Make its Feature Film Debut Today in Theaters Nationwide

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The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has been amazing audiences around the world since 1958. However, even after almost 60 years in business, it is still breaking ground as a modern dance company.

On Thursday, Oct. 22, Ailey will be debuting its first-ever feature film as part of the Lincoln Center at the Movies series, Great American Dance. In movie theaters nationwide, audiences will have the chance to watch the Ailey company perform some of its most classic, popular pieces like “Revelations,” “Takademe” choreographed by Robert Battle and “Grace” by Ronald K. Brown.

Hosted by Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan, the film will also feature behind-the-scenes footage from shows and exclusive interviews with members of the company.

Considering that this is a one-night only affair, this event is the opportunity of a lifetime. The Ailey company is critically acclaimed for its brilliant choreography and innovative scores featuring some of the most loved and revered musicians in Black music including Duke Ellington, Roy Davis and Fela Kuti.  The entire show is performed to African-American spirituals, song-sermons, gospel songs and holy blues.

Interested? Check local listings (the show starts at 7 pm local time) here or here and check out the trailer below:

article by Monique John via hellobeautiful.com

Oprah Winfrey and Former Alvin Ailey Dancer Dwana Smallwood Open Performing Arts Center in Bedford-Stuyvesant

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Dwana Smallwood (back) teaches dance at Dwana Smallwood Performing Arts Center in Bed-Stuy (photo via 7online.com)

The “Oprah Effect”: we’ve all heard about it, but to experience it is quite a different story.  Your life can change on a dime.  And it did for Dwana Smallwood, one of the premier dancers for Alvin Ailey.

What started as invite from Oprah turned into more than a $500,000 donation to a dancer’s dream.  “Oh my goodness, what a journey from Green Avenue down the street to right now. It’s been an extraordinary journey,” said Smallwood.

It’s a journey that took Smallwood from the streets of Bedford-Stuyvesant to performing around the world as one of the premiere dancers for Alvin Ailey’s elite dance company for 12 years. She is considered one of the best modern dancers since Judith Jamison and Mikhail Baryshnikov. Her power and her grace are electrifying.  “Even though Alvin Ailey is one of the biggest companies in the world, and that was the only place I wanted to dance, and I kept thinking is that my life’s purpose to perform,” Smallwood said.

And that could be enough for some but not for Dwana. So when life came knocking at her door once again, she did as she always did. She danced her way to the next opportunity this time appearing on “The Oprah Winfrey Show”.  But that performance morphed into so much more.  “I said please, please, please would you go to my school in South Africa and teach my girls what you know,” Oprah Winfrey said.

And she did. Her passion took on a new form as a teacher.  But what was supposed to be a one week stay at the school, turned into a four-year odyssey.  “First I was begging for a week. Then I was begging for a year,” Winfrey said.

The lessons extended far beyond dance, even for Dwana.  “It unleashed this person that knew that I could reach young people. I could figure out what’s going on with a young woman and I could help her figure out the brilliance within her,” Smallwood said.

“What she did at my school, she came in to teach dance but she taught them about life, she taught them all of the social emotional skills that we know it takes to really be successful, and not only survive but to thrive in the world,” Winfrey said.

With her mission accomplished in South Africa, home was calling her back.  “I truly love Brooklyn and I love Bed-Stuy,” Smallwood said.

Continue reading “Oprah Winfrey and Former Alvin Ailey Dancer Dwana Smallwood Open Performing Arts Center in Bedford-Stuyvesant”

New Rennie Harris Work “Exodus” Featured in Alvin Ailey Dance Season this June

Hip-hop Choreographer Rennie Harris
Hip-hop Choreographer Rennie Harris

“Exodus,” a new work by the hip-hop choreographer Rennie Harris, will be given its world premiere in June during Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s two-week season at Lincoln Center, the company’s artistic director, Robert Battle, announced on Tuesday.

The season, which will run from June 10 through June 21 at the David H. Koch Theater, will also feature the Ailey company premiere of “No Longer Silent,” which Mr. Battle created in 2007 for the Juilliard School. The company will also present new productions of “Toccata” by Talley Beatty and Judith Jamison’s “A Case of You” duet. Recent works, including “Odetta,” and company classics, including “Revelations,” will be performed as well.

Then the Ailey company plans to hit the road to appear at Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris from July 7 through Aug. 1 as part of Les Étés de la Danse, an international dance festival, and then, in September, it is scheduled to return to South Africa, where it had a memorable tour in 1997.

article by Michael Cooper via nytimes.com

R.I.P. Tony-Award Winning Dancer, Actor and Artist Geoffrey Holder

Geoffrey Holder, the dancer, choreographer, actor, composer, designer and painter who used his manifold talents to infuse the arts with the flavor of his native West Indies and to put a singular stamp on the American cultural scene, not least with his outsize personality, died on Sunday in Manhattan. He was 84.

Charles M. Mirotznik, a spokesman for the family, said the cause was complications of pneumonia. Few cultural figures of the last half of the 20th century were as multifaceted as Mr. Holder, and few had a public presence as unmistakable as his, with his gleaming pate atop a 6-foot-6 frame, full-bodied laugh and bassoon of a voice laced with the lilting cadences of the Caribbean.

Mr. Holder directed a dance troupe from his native Trinidad and Tobago, danced on Broadway and at the Metropolitan Opera and won Tony Awards in 1975 for direction of a musical and costume design for “The Wiz,” a rollicking, all-black version of “The Wizard of Oz.”

His choreography was in the repertory of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the Dance Theater of Harlem. He acted onstage and in films and was an accomplished painter, photographer and sculptor whose works have been shown in galleries and museums. He published a cookbook.

Mr. Holder acknowledged that he achieved his widest celebrity as the jolly, white-suited television pitchman for 7Up in the 1970s and ’80s, when in a run of commercials, always in tropical settings, he happily endorsed the soft-drink as an “absolutely maaarvelous” alternative to Coca-Cola — or “the Un-Cola,” as the ads put it.

Long afterward, white suit or no, he would stop pedestrian traffic and draw stares at restaurants. He even good-naturedly alluded to the TV spots in accepting his Tony for directing, using their signature line “Just try making something like that out of a cola nut.”

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Alvin Ailey at Lincoln Center, First Time in 13 Years

This publicity image released by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater shows dancers performing in "Four Corners, choreographed by Ronald K. Brown, at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater in New York. (AP Photo/Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Paul Kolnik)
This publicity image released by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater shows dancers performing in “Four Corners, choreographed by Ronald K. Brown, at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater in New York. (AP Photo/Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Paul Kolnik)

NEW YORK (AP) — When Robert Battle first arrived at New York’s Lincoln Center years ago, he was a dance student with a scholarship to Juilliard. On his first day, he walked up to the building he thought was the school. It turned out to be the Metropolitan Opera House.

This past week, Battle arrived at Lincoln Center in a far different capacity — as artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, one of the most-loved dance companies in the world. He was bringing the company to its first engagement at Lincoln Center — one of the premier dance addresses in the world — in 13 years.

“This time I’m pretty sure I’m in the right place,” Battle, always ready with a smile and a quip, told the opening-night audience Wednesday at the David H. Koch Theater. “I saw my name on the poster outside.”

Battle, appointed two years ago, has the tricky job of projecting the gravitas needed to follow his famous predecessor, Judith Jamison, who held the job for more than two decades and carved a place in dance history, and at the same time injecting fresh life into the company, via new works and ideas.

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Alvin Ailey Dance Troupe Wows with “Minus 16”, “Revelations”

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater: Linda Celeste Sims and Glenn Allen Sims, with Jessye Norman, at right, at City Center. (Photo: Andrea Mohin/The New York Times)

On Wednesday evening Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater settled into City Center for its annual season with a nod to the past and a look to the future. Amid the din of shrill greetings — this was a gala, after all — Samuel Lee Roberts worked his way across the stage, jabbing the tips of his toes into the floor until his knees buckled and his spine contorted inelegantly. It was an arresting and, for Ailey, an unusual sight, yet few grasped that “Minus 16,” by the Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin, had even begun.

This introduction requires a dancer to perform an improvised solo rooted in Gaga, a method of training that focuses more on sensation than technique. In “Minus 16,” based on excerpts from Mr. Naharin’s past works and a welcome addition to last season’s repertory, dancers trade their customary expressions of joy or sorrow for impassive stares.

‘Boyz n the Hood’ Reimagined by Interpretive Dancer Kyle Abraham

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The thirty-five-year-old choreographer Kyle Abraham has come a long way in just a few years. In 2006, he established his company, Abraham.In.Motion, and since then has produced dances that have earned him awards and critical acclaim. In December, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre will première a work that it commissioned from him. For someone whose career has taken off in such a big way, though, he retains a strong connection to his Pittsburgh roots, and shows great integrity in his dance-making, both of which were evident in his newest work, “Pavement,” which Abraham presented recently at Harlem Stage.

Abraham, who is African-American, went to high school in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, a historically black neighborhood, and in several of his previous works he drew on his experiences there. For “Pavement,” he went back to 1991, to reimagine the film “Boyz n the Hood,” about gangs in South Central Los Angeles, which was released that summer. He used the film as a springboard for examining life in Pittsburgh’s African-American communities in the Hill District and East Liberty Homewood and reflecting on the state of the black American experience in the two decades since its release.

But Abraham’s conception was even more sweeping. He also wanted to look at the history that had preceded the strife represented in “Boyz n the Hood,” and found a pertinent source in “The Souls of Black Folk,” the 1903 book by W. E. B. Du Bois, whose essays became instrumental in African-Americans’ struggle for equality in the twentieth century. Du Bois’s text made no appearance in “Pavement,” but Abraham included a quote from it in the program, which hovered over the dance: “Men call the shadow prejudice, and learnedly explain it as a natural defense of culture against barbarism, learning against ignorance, purity against crime, the ‘higher’ against the ‘lower’ races.” In the light of Du Bois’s words from more than a century ago, the realities as depicted in the film are sobering. From the perspective of 1991, when the ravages of H.I.V., crack addiction, and gang genocide were entrenched, not much seems to have gone right.

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Judith Jamison Honored At White House Dance Event



WASHINGTON (AP) — The stately White House East Room, home to many a bill signing and ceremonial gathering, became a stage Tuesday for pirouettes, jetes, gravity-defying leaps and a few bumps and grinds as Michelle Obama inaugurated a new dance series.

Dancers of all types — ballet, modern, hip hop and Broadway — took over the room, first for a series of workshops in which students from around the country had a chance to learn from the pros.

After a short break, the students were to return to see their mentors for the day perform in an hour-long, star-studded show. Even Broadway’s young “Billy Elliot” was there — well, four Billys actually, from the show’s rotating cast.

But the main attraction was the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, whose celebrated artistic director, Judith Jamison, soon to retire after two decades in the job, was the honoree of the event.  At the afternoon workshops, young girls in leotards, their hair tightly wrapped in buns, sprawled on the shiny East Room floor, stretching their legs into splits as they warmed up. Jamison watched with a smile on her face as current Ailey dancers then taught the kids — about 100 boys and girls from across the country — excerpts from Ailey’s “Revelations,” one of the most beloved works in all of modern dance. “Slow! Slooooow,” intoned teacher Nasha Thomas-Schmitt, urging the kids at one point to take their time with a stretch.

“Wow,” said Damian Woetzel, director of the event and a former star of New York City Ballet, after the Ailey workshop. “Now you’ve danced in the White House!” he told the kids.

The 67-year-old Jamison is an icon of the dance world. She joined the Ailey company in 1965 and became the choreographer’s muse, her dramatic power as a dancer epitomized in the unforgettable 1971 solo piece “Cry.” In 1989, after Ailey’s death, she took over as artistic director. She is scheduled to step down in 2011.

“What a rare opportunity, to be invited by your country’s first lady to be honored like this,” Jamison said in a weekend interview. “I’ve been to the White House a couple of times before, but this event is totally unique. It’s so terribly important to recognize this art form and to understand how important it is to the fabric of this country.”  “This will be another clarion call to people: Pay attention to your arts!” Jamison said. “My dancers are so excited.”

Woetzel, who is on the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities, had a dizzying array of choices from which to cull an hour of the country’s best dance. And he said it wasn’t exactly hard to find dancers, no matter that the event came just after a summer vacation weekend.

“Everyone was so excited to be a part of this,” Woetzel said in an interview. “It’s really an exciting opportunity to present the variety of dance in this country. And the student component makes it especially unique. It’s a great way to start the school year.”

Though the Obamas have spotlighted many varieties of music since they came to the White House — there have been events celebrating Latin music, rock, jazz, country, classical and Broadway show tunes — the dance world might have felt ignored, until now.  But Michelle Obama seems to be a dance fan. Jamison noted proudly that the Obamas and their daughters spent one of their first nights out as first family taking in an Ailey performance at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

“They came backstage, took pictures — the dancers were thrilled,” she said.  Also on the program Tuesday: the Paul Taylor Dance Company, The Washington Ballet, Super Cr3w and the New York City Ballet.  The students came from dance schools around the country: The Alvin Ailey School, Ballet Hispanico, Cab Calloway School of the Arts, Dance Theatre of Harlem, the Chicago Multicultural Dance Center and others.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.