The Music Center Celebrates Ailey’s 60th Anniversary

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Robert Battle’s Juba (Photo by: Paul Kolnik)

By The Precinct Reporter News

The Music Center welcomes one of America’s most popular dance companies, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, back to Los Angeles with the dance company’s 60th anniversary celebration tour at The Music Center’s Dorothy Chandler Pavilion through April 7. Led by Artistic Director Robert Battle, Ailey’s remarkable dancers – including Danica Paulos of Huntington Beach and Rehearsal Director and Guest Artist Matthew Rushing of Los Angeles, who has been with the Company for more than 25 years – will perform four different programs of diverse repertory featuring West Coast premieres, new productions and returning classics. Part of the 2018/2019 season of Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at The Music Center, which is curated by The Music Center’s artistic division The Music Center Arts (TMC Arts), the engagement includes four special programs: Trailblazers, featuring the West Coast premiere of Lazarus by Rennie Harris – the company’s first two-act ballet; Bold Visions, featuring West Coast premiere of Wayne McGregor’s Kairos and the Los Angeles premiere of The Call by Ronald K. Brown, alongside Jawole Willa Jo Zollar’s Shelter; a Timeless Ailey program with rarely seen gems by one of America’s greatest cultural leaders; and a Musical Inspirations program featuring the Los Angeles premiere of Ailey star Jamar Roberts’ Members Don’t Get Weary, a new production of Robert Battle’s Juba, and his tour-de-force duet Ella.

Each of the four programs will feature Alvin Ailey’s American masterpiece Revelations. Since its creation in 1960, Revelations has been seen by more audiences around the world than any other modern work, inspiring generations through its powerful storytelling and soul-stirring spirituals. Springing from Ailey’s childhood memories of growing up in the South and attending services at Mount Olive Baptist Church in Texas, Revelations pays homage to the rich African-American cultural heritage and explores the emotional spectrum of the human condition.

“Alvin Ailey forever changed the American landscape by raising up the lives and cultural heritage of African Americans for all to see, opening the hearts and minds of people of every background and elevating the world of the performing arts,” said Robert Battle. “During this milestone season, we are thrilled to return to Los Angeles, the city that was home to Mr. Ailey for many years, and where he fell in love with dance and launched his career. We honor Alvin Ailey’s storied legacy with performances across North America, educational programs that enlighten young people and develop the next generation of performing artists. What Mr. Ailey gave us is more than a repertory and a tradition. It is a movement, a direction, a desire, a conviction that if the spirit is to live it must rise. We dedicate our 60th anniversary to the next ascent.”

Audiences will experience Ailey’s first ever two-act work with the West Coast premiere of Rennie Harris’ Lazarus. Inspired by the life and legacy of Alvin Ailey, and addressing the racial inequities America faced in 1958 when the company was founded and which continue to challenge today, Lazarus is an ensemble work featuring a soundtrack that melds Nina Simone, Terrence Trent D’Arby, Michael Kiwanuka, Odetta, original music by Darrin Ross, and the voice of Alvin Ailey. The New York Times said, “… Mr. Harris gives us something like heaven,” and “… the style has a spiritual force that’s uplifting, and the pleasure of it is mixed with a revelation of the past in the present, of black history in the body language.”

Wayne McGregor’s Kairos, the second piece the choreographer set on the company following

Chroma in 2013, is performed to a reimagined Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons by experimental composer Max Richter in the Bold Visions program. The Dance Enthusiast described the company’s performance of Kairos as “the dancers of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater stay true to Wayne McGregor’s intellectual brilliance without sacrificing the trademark spirituality of Ailey.” The Music Center opened its current season of Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at The Music Center with Company Wayne McGregor/Autobiography and will again present McGregor’s work during its upcoming presentation of Adès & McGregor: A Dance Collaboration this coming July. Richter was at the helm of another Music Center presentation, The Music Center Presents Max Richter’s SLEEP, this past summer in Grand Park.

Ronald K. Brown’s seventh work for Ailey, The Call, will make its Los Angeles premiere at The Music Center and is included in the Bold Visions program. Brown, a 2018 Dance Magazine Award recipient, describes the work, which seamlessly blends modern and West African dance idioms, as “a love letter to Mr.

Ailey.” The music includes Johann Sebastian Bach (recorded by Chris Thile, Edgar Meyere & Yo-Yo Ma), Mary Lou Williams Trio, and Asase Yaa. Jawole Willa Jo Zollar’s Shelter, a passionate statement about the physical, is also featured on the Bold Visions program.

Honoring Ailey’s 60th anniversary, the company will showcase Timeless Ailey, a program that brings treasures by the company’s iconic founder back to the stage. Excerpts from rarely seen gems, including Blues Suite, Streams, Mary Lou’s Mass, The Lark Ascending, Hidden Rites, Phases, Opus McShann, Pas de Duke, and For “Bird” – With Love, will be joined by perennial favorites such as Memoria, Night Creature, and Cry.

The Musical Inspirations program includes Robert Battle’s first work for the company, Juba (2003), a quartet with a score by frequent collaborator John Mackey; Ailey dancer and 2016 “Bessie” Award recipient Jamar Roberts’ first work for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Members Don’t Get Weary, set to the powerful music of the legendary American jazz saxophonist and composer John Coltrane; and Ella, a highenergy comical dance originally created as a solo and reinvented as a duet in anticipation of the legendary singer Ella Fitzgerald’s centennial in April 2017. 

One hour prior to each performance, The Music Center will host DANCETALKS featuring interviews with Ailey company members.  Ticketed guests can join this fascinating behind-the-scenes pre-performance discussion and also have the opportunity to learn a segment from the famed Ailey masterpiece Revelations.

This article originally appeared in the Precinct Reporter Group News.

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