The groundbreaking Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater returns to the Kennedy Center for its annual engagement with seven performances on the Opera House stage, Feb. 5-10.
Led by Artistic Director Robert Battle, the company opens the season for its 60th anniversary of promoting the African-American cultural experience. Performances include “Lazarus,” the newest work by choreographer Rennie Harris co-commissioned by the Kennedy Center, three D.C. debuts, one new production and a special “Timeless Ailey” classics program. And of course, their signature piece, the majestic “Revelations,” choreographed by founder Alvin Ailey will be performed as the finale for all seven programs.
“Lazarus, inspired by the life and legacy of Ailey, connects past and present in a powerful work that addresses the racial inequities America faced when Ailey founded the company in 1958 and still faces today. As the final piece of a trilogy of works from Harris, “Lazarus” includes a score by Darrin Ross and incorporates spoken word.
“Kairos,” choreographer Wayne McGregor’s second Ailey company premiere, fills the stage with sinuous, angular movement and synchronicity. The ballet is framed by Idris Khan’s dramatic set design and played out to Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons,” re-imagined by experimental composer Max Richter.
“The Call,” Ronald K. Brown’s seventh work for the company, includes themes of spiritual awakening and redemption. Brown’s mix of modern and West African dance idioms is described as his “love letter to Mr. Ailey” and is set to recordings of Johann Sebastian Bach. As a new production of a work this season, “Juba,” Battle’s first work for the company, explores where ritual and folk traditions exist in today’s society as five dancers engage in a modern-day Rite of Spring with an abstract twist, fueled by a string quartet and plenty of percussion. of this edgy, ritualistic work.
If you’re an aficionado of Ailey’s choreography, “Timeless Ailey” is just what the doctor ordered, featuring two acts of rarely seen excerpts of more than a dozen treasures from his rich body of work, including highlights of seldom-seen gems like “The Lark Ascending,” “Hidden Rites” and “Choral Dances,” as well as perennial favorites: “Love Songs,” “Night Creature,” “Cry” and “Revelations.”
The annual engagement at the Kennedy Center began with a 20th Annual Opening Night Gala Benefit on Feb. 5 with proceeds to support Ailey’s D.C. programs including the creation of new works, arts-in-education activities and scholarships to talented young dance students from the greater Washington area to attend The Ailey School in New York City.
Dancers from the D.C. area include: Ghrai DeVore and Jermaine Terry (D.C.), joined 2010; Samantha Figgins (D.C.), joined 2014, Daniel Harder (Bowie), joined 2010; Jacqueline Green (Baltimore), joined 2011 and Courtney Celeste Spears (Baltimore), joined 2018.
The company has made frequent appearances at the Kennedy Center, dating back to the Center’s opening performance in 1971 when Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater participated in the world premiere of Leonard Bernstein’s Mass, choreographed by Alvin Ailey.