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While the NY Times article of March 27, 2008 gives general information about the 50th Anniversary of The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, it omits the dates and places of a number of free performances and classes throughout New York City this August.


As listed on the AAADT site:

In August, 2008, Ailey will conduct a series of free performances and dance classes in all five boroughs of NYC, sponsored by Bloomberg. Venues include:

St. George Theatre (Staten Island): Tuesday, August 5

Hostos Center for the Arts and Culture (Bronx): Wednesday, August 6

Celebrate Brooklyn: Thursday, August 7

New York City Center: Saturday, August 9

Queens Theatre in the Park: Tuesday, August 12

Please check back for schedule updates for our free summer performances and dance classes.

The site also gives details of the year and a half of festivities here:


Activities range from International and American Tours, to a Video Art Installation titled "Goldenly" by David Michalek (Wendy Whalen's husband, who dazzled Lincoln Center crowds with one last year), Hallmark cards featuring company dancers, and even a Barbie Doll (but no Ken)!

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The company was in Seattle last weekend, with three different programs. They are emphasizing the 50th anniversary year (including a touching short film at the beginning of the evening) so it feels right to look at the development of the ensemble. Even though Ailey's name is over the door, he considered it a repertory company, and Judith Jamison has certainly maintained that direction. The Friday night program reflected his aesthetic (physical and dramatic virtuosity) even though half the work is new to the company.

Maurice Bejart has always had an odd reputation in the US -- when his company toured here in the 1970s they regularly attracted the same kind of mixed response that Boris Eifman has more recently -- some people loved his combination of dramatic hyperbole and sensual ballet-based movement, and some people thought it was dreck. His "Firebird" is over 30 years old now, and what at its premiere might have been radical (casting a pair of men in the title role, shifting the ensemble from a group of Russian maidens to what looks like a cadre of Maoist revolutionaries) no longer feels edgy, but as an example of its time and maker, the ballet works quite well. The Ailey dancers respect the dramatic moments (the circle where each dancer touches hands with the person to their left could have been a maudlin reenactment of 1960s hippie culture in other, less sincere productions) and offer their considerable technique to its sexy virtuosity, so that despite some hit-you-over-the-head symbolism, I was very happy to see it.

The main message is that Twyla Tharp should have the Ailey company perform all her work, especially the big ensemble things where the dancers are moving at the speed of light. They looked like the gods they are in "The Golden Section," caroming across the space, head and feet flashing in complicated patterns, multiple games playing out at every moment. Tharp's choreography is the kinetic version of multi-tasking, and the Ailey dancers make it look like a walk in the park, as long as that walk is in the air and up the wall. I get the same feeling of ecstasy from this kind of work that most people get from the Ailey classic Revelations -- for me, this is the secular substitute -- and this gives the program an interesting double climax. Tharp's work was an ascension to an abstract heaven at the end of the first half, while Revelations is the more dramatically specific version at the end of the second.

This was my first time seeing Ailey's "Reflections in D" and, programmed right before "Revelations," it was a little glossary of his style as it stood in 1962. It's obviously a showcase solo (Antonio Douthit, the night I saw it) but the structural integrity keeps it from being self-indulgent. The connection to Lester Horton's technique is very clear, especially in the torso. It's easy to assume that the torque in the center of the body comes from the Graham school, but as I understand it, Ailey brought that to NY with him from his years in Los Angeles working with Horton. "Reflections" is full of the extended twisting that is integral to the sculptural look of Ailey, in soloist shapes and especially in partnering. What could have been a charming wander through the Duke Elllington score in less deft hands was a compact exploration of style.

By this point I imagine that the company ends all of its touring programs with "Revelations" (it's heavily featured in the anniversary film as well), and its power doesn't seem to be diminished after all this time. There were several photos from what looked like the original production in the film, and it's fascinating to contrast them with the current version. In 1960, "Revelations" was a more intimate work, with a small cast standing in for a whole congregation -- now, the congregation is all on stage. But it still works like a Swiss clock, linking piety and a deep plie so that physical exhilaration is also spiritual cleansing. And in the audience we still all rise at the end, so that we can clap and sway during the encore, all of us one big dance company.

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