Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, America’s beloved cultural ambassador to the world, completes its 22-city coast-to-coast North American tour at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) Friday-Sunday, May 12-14, 2023.
Led by Artistic Director Robert Battle, Ailey returns to the NJPAC stage for the 24th time with exciting premieres, a powerful new production, and repertory favorites including Alvin Ailey‘s must-see American masterpiece Revelations. Other NJPAC activities include Ailey Day April 29 (a free community day of dance classes), a Schooltime Performance May 12 for young students, and its annual summer AileyCamp June 26-August 4. (Please scroll down for the complete schedule and program.)
Audiences will have two opportunities to experience the “New Jersey Premieres” program (Fri., May 12, 8pm and Sun., May 14 at 3pm), featuring acclaimed choreographer Kyle Abraham‘s Are You in Your Feelings?, a celebration of Black culture, Black music, and the youthful spirit that perseveres in us all. Scored to a “mixtape” of soul, hip-hop, and R&B from beloved musical artists like Jhené Aiko, Drake, Lauryn Hill, Kendrick Lamar, Jazmine Sullivan, and Summer Walker, the critically applauded work explores the connections among music, communication, and personal memory. The program also welcomes In a Sentimental Mood by Jamar Roberts, an intimate scene from the domestic life of a couple that becomes an exploration of love and desire. The work is set to an original composition by Duke Ellington and four jazz standards given an avant-garde twist by composer Rafiq Bhatia.
The “Classic Ailey” program (Sat., May 13, 8pm) highlights the new production of Survivors (1986), Alvin Ailey‘s impassioned tribute to the profound courage and terrible anguish of Nelson and Winnie Mandela, which will be seen this season for the first time since 1988. A soundtrack of Max Roach‘s richly varied drumming and Abbey Lincoln’s powerful vocals sets the emotional tone for a work that presents a portrait of people transformed by injustice and lifts up those who resist oppression in any form. This program also features two Alvin Ailey classics set to the musical genius of Duke Ellington: Reflections in D, a strong yet serene solo known to highlight the grace, artistry, and power of the male dancer and Night Creature, a bubbly champagne cocktail of a dance that perfectly fuses Ailey’s buoyant choreography and Duke Ellington‘s sparkling music.
The inspiring finale of all performances is Alvin Ailey‘s must-see American masterpiece Revelations, which has uplifted audiences in every city on the tour. Since its creation in 1960, Revelations has been seen by more people around the world than any other modern dance work moving audiences with its powerful storytelling and soul-stirring music, evoking timeless themes of determination, hope, and transcendence. 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 cultural heritage of the African American and explores the emotional spectrum of the human condition.
Ailey’s 32 extraordinary dancers include two New Jersey natives: Montclair’s Chalvar Monteiro and Newark’s Christopher Taylor, who will make his NJPAC debut as a member of the renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. In 2011, Taylor’s journey to dance began when he attended the inaugural AileyCamp Newark, and continued training at The Ailey School on scholarship, before dancing with Ailey II for two seasons. Alongside Company member Solomon Dumas, Taylor is only the second former AileyCamper to join Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Although AileyCamp is not meant to be a training ground for professional dancers, some students are awarded scholarships to further study at The Ailey School or pursue training at other accredited dance schools and have later performed with professional dance companies.
In 1958, Alvin Ailey and a small group of dancers took the stage in New York and forever changed American dance and culture. One of the country’s groundbreaking greats, his Company earned a reputation as one of the finest international ambassadors of American culture, promoting the uniqueness of the African American cultural experience and the preservation and enrichment of American modern dance. Now in its seventh decade, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater continues to move forward under the leadership of Artistic Director Robert Battle, along with Associate Artistic Director Matthew Rushing, a renowned former dancer who is marking his 30th anniversary with Ailey this season. In 2014, Robert Battle accepted the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, on behalf of the late Alvin Ailey, a trailblazing artist who is the subject of the acclaimed documentary Ailey, currently streaming on Hulu. For more information on Ailey’s upcoming performances, visit www.alvinailey.org.
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