By Micha Green, AFRO Washington, D.C. Editor, [email protected]
In a time of division and racial tension in the United States, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater brought unity and healing through art in their performances at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Northwest, Washington, D.C.
From Feb. 5- 10 audiences packed into the Kennedy Center to see the renowned dance company, founded by its namesake in 1958, under the current artistic direction of Robert Battle, with famous former company member Judith Jamison serving as artistic director emerita.
The same week of the highly controversial State of the Union (SOTU) address, the history-making delivery of Stacey Abrams’ Democratic response to the SOTU as the first African American woman to do so, and the debates surrounding the trio of trouble facing Virginia’s Democratic leadership, artists of different creeds graced the stage with dances that showed struggle and pain and celebrated ingenuity, freedom and Black culture. Through movement that perfectly flowed from rigid to fluid, restricted to free, low crawls to high jumps and beautifully combined technique and emotions, audiences could forget the personal, national and international concerns and simply enjoy the cathartic nature of art and the beauty it embues.
Bright, bold colors from the costumes to the lights enhanced the strong storytelling through movement by the Ailey dancers. The Thursday Feb. 7 performance included pieces considered “Timeless Ailey” classics such as “Good Morning Blues,” “Our Father,” and “Gee Baby” and after intermission audiences were treated to the Ailey’s famous “Revelations,” which received a bunch of “amens,” random applauses throughout the performance and two standing ovations at the end.
Members representing the D.M.V. area were also featured in the company such as the District’s own, Samantha Figgins, a graduate of Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Northwest, Daniel Harder of Bowie, MD, who went to Suitland High School’s Center for the Visual and Performing Arts and Jacqueline Green and Courtney Celeste Spears, both of whom attended Baltimore School of the Arts.
After the show, audience members marveled at the poignancy of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater- over 60 years after it was founded- in today’s American culture.
“I was so happy to see this diverse audience, and I was thinking about all the things that are going on today- politics and all that. Everything’s that’s wrong and here we are looking at something good and diverse,” Jean Lewis told the AFRO.
Lewis attended the show with her longtime friend, Mary Robinson, both of whom are from Atlanta and graduates of Clark College (before it was Clark-Atlanta University), but have lived in the Washington Metropolitan Area for quite some time.
“We followed them since the 60s… I remember sitting in the auditorium watching them rehearse,” Robinson said recalling when Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater came to Clark College in the early 60s. Lewis said she still had her program from Ailey coming to Clark in 1963. The two remarked they had no idea how big of a deal it was to witness Alvin Ailey back then, but totally appreciate the legacy now.
“I just love the fact that everybody loves it. We’re all here together, Black, White, Asian and banning [together] both on the stage and in the audience.” Lewis told the AFRO. “This was amazing.”