Courtesy of Alvin Ailey Dance Theater
Courtesy of Alvin Ailey Dance Theater

The acclaimed Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has returned to the District with performances continuing now through Feb. 6 at the Kennedy Center Opera House stage.

Led by Robert Battle on his 10th anniversary as artistic director, audiences will be swept away with seven performances featuring a mix of new productions, a D.C. premiere and enduring favorites.

During the Center’s 50th anniversary season, Ailey marks its seventh decade and 50-year relationship with the Center. The dance company first took to the stage during the Center’s 1971 opening performance of  Leonard Bernstein’s MASS, which significantly featured the commission of new choreography by Alvin  Ailey.

Since then, the company has had a long-standing impact on the world of modern dance and a unique role in celebrating the African-American cultural experience.

The company’s performances include 13 works along with Alvin Ailey’s American masterpiece “Revelations,” which will be performed as the finale for all seven programs.

In addition, two of the works were created on video during the COVID-19 pandemic and later staged in person.

Highlights include the following:

In its D.C. premiere, Ailey resident choreographer Jamar Roberts’ “Holding Space” examines the ways in which we are taking care. The ensemble work asks: in what ways we can collectively accommodate one another to better traverse this new and unprecedented terrain?

Another premiere comes with “For Four,” a work created on video during the pandemic and later staged in person and set to a Wynton Marsalis jazz score. It captures the pent-up energy of a world cooped up during the pandemic.

“Cry,” last seen at the Kennedy Center in 2019, represents Ailey’s beloved classic dedicated to “all Black women everywhere – especially our mothers.”

The 16-minute solo, first danced by Judith Jamison, has three parts: the first set to Alice Coltrane’s “Something about John  Coltrane,” the second to Laura Nyro’s “Been on a Train” and the last with the Voices of East Harlem singing “Right On, Be Free.”

Ailey’s masterpiece, “Revelations,” was choreographed when he was only 29. It serves as an intimate reflection inspired by childhood memories of attending services at Mount Olive Baptist Church in Texas. Additionally, it’s undergirded with the work of writers James Baldwin and Langston Hughes.

It’s set to a suite of traditional spirituals and explores the emotional spectrum of the human condition, from the deepest of grief to the holiest joy. It should be noted that “Revelations” has been seen by more people around the world than any other modern work.

More about this visionary choreographer who used his artistry to celebrate his African-American heritage and to change American dance and culture, can be seen on the new documentary film “Ailey,” streaming on PBS and Hulu through Feb. 11.

Dancers from the greater Washington area include: Ghrai DeVore-Stokes, Jermaine Terry, Samantha Figgins, Jacqueline Green, Courtney Celeste Spears, Corrin Rachelle Mitchell and Miranda Quinn.

For more about Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, go to alvinailey.org. For tickets, go to www.kennedy-center.org.

D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Dominic Kevin McNeir is an award-winning journalist with more than 25 years of service for the Black Press (NNPA). Prior to moving East to assist his aging parents in their struggles with Alzheimer’s,...

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