Jump to content
cubanmiamiboy

"Revelations" out of AA...?

Recommended Posts

I saw a round of "Revelations"-(one of my favorite pieces of dance, period)-in December, at City Center, and then once again here...just last weekend. I'm not familiar with the past of the company, but as we all know, this is not a heterogeneous dance company, racially speaking.  From the performances in NYC and here again, I noticed two white dancers, both of whom were portrayed in "Revelations".  I did some researching, and found that Mr Ailey wasn't particularly fond of trying for the company to look homogeneously black , but it is also a reality that the company and its repertoire has heavily targeted and  speaks to the black community.  And I was thinking while watching the red haired, ultra white girl with the hat and the fan toward the end surrounded by black dancers how much of the core of the piece-(like slavery or Gospel church services)- and its significance within the black community would be as relevant as the dance quality itself?.  Or in other words and to put it simply...would the fact that this very few white dancers within this company are very good technically be enough to make their spot a non spot for a black dancer...? I know that this same issue is constantly discussed in this forum but in the opposite way-(few black dancers within classical ballet companies)-,but it still raised my curiosity, given the historical and racially sensitive significance of the issues told by "Revelations".

Going further...would you imagine "Revelations" being danced by your favorite ballet company...? Say...NYCB and its all white ensemble...? 

Honestly, I don't.

Thoughts...?

 

 

Share this post


Link to post

Ailey never wanted the company to be just one thing -- not one choreographer or one race of dancers.  One of his early colleagues when he was in LA dancing for Lester Horton was Joyce Trisler -- he made Memoria in her honor.

Share this post


Link to post

If I remember rightly Joyce Trisler was still with the company when I first saw them in London many, many years ago.

Share this post


Link to post
12 hours ago, sandik said:

Ailey never wanted the company to be just one thing -- not one choreographer or one race of dancers.  One of his early colleagues when he was in LA dancing for Lester Horton was Joyce Trisler -- he made Memoria in her honor.

I also read that he was invited to stage a work for ABT back in the 70's. The work had one big solo for a male, and ABT insisted on giving it to the only black dancer of the company...nor the best. I don't know how the story ended, but it met Ailey's displeasure.

Still wondering about the shock value of "Revelations" being danced by any other ballet company.

Share this post


Link to post

Alvin Ailey choreographed The River for American Ballet Theatre; the work premiered in 1970.

The Vortex solo from it  was the solo danced by Amelia (Leslie Brown) in the gala in the movie "The Turning Pointe."

There were a number of solos in the piece:

https://www.abt.org/ballet/the-river/

The only other one I can find is 1972's Sea Change, with 21 dancers of all ranks listed alphabetically.

https://www.abt.org/ballet/sea-change/

Perhaps there's no shock value by another company performing Revelations.

Share this post


Link to post

My interpretation of Revelations is that it's about a black experience, so I think that it would look strange if the cast wasn't at least majority black. Beyond that, Revelations is so strongly identified with AAADT that any other company that performed it would run the risk of it being rated as "good, but it just wasn't Ailey".

There have been some complaints, including in the Washington Post's review of AAADT's most recent visit to the Kennedy Center, that Revelations has changed a little over the years and that not everyone viewed the changes favorably. Someone brought this up (in a tactful way) when Julie Kent hosted Judith Jamieson at a Washington Ballet talk a year or 2 ago, and Ms. Jamieson's reply was something to the effect that every generation of dancers gets to make Revelations their own.

Share this post


Link to post
55 minutes ago, Helene said:

 

Perhaps there's no shock value by another company performing Revelations.

Perhaps. Or not. I guess we'll never know until we see it up there. I say NYCB because it is this company most of the people of this board are familiar with and might "picture" doing it 

Share this post


Link to post
17 minutes ago, cubanmiamiboy said:

Perhaps. Or not. I guess we'll never know until we see it up there. I say NYCB because it is this company most of the people of this board are familiar with and might "picture" doing it 

NYCB -- that would make my eyeballs bleed.

This would take contemporary dancers, but I don't know if any large enough.  Hubbard Street or Akram Kahn dancers could do the movement, but there aren't enough of them.

Share this post


Link to post
1 hour ago, Helene said:

Perhaps there's no shock value by another company performing Revelations.

Would any other company even be given the performance rights for Revelations? I don't believe this is still the case, but there was a period of time where every AAADC performance would close with Revelations. I don't know who controls the rights, but it could be that the company itself has them locked up for as long as it wants them. It's AAADC's signature work, a touchstone of the company's heritage,  and a cash cow. I can't imagine the company wanting to dilute the work's box office potency — or, less cynically, its stylistic integrity and the special place it holds for the company and its audience.

Share this post


Link to post
2 hours ago, Helene said:

NYCB -- that would make my eyeballs bleed.

 

Exactly. And I assume not because of lack of technical capabilities. 

Share this post


Link to post

Ailey made changes in Revelations throughout his life, mostly adding to the size of the cast as the company got larger and started performing in bigger venues.  Marcia Siegel talks about this in one of her anthologies -- she felt that the work lost a certain amount of its original impact and became a bit more commercial, but Ailey defended the changes as being a part of the growth of the company.

Share this post


Link to post

Lynn Seymour danced his Flowers (based on the life of Janis Joplin) but I don't think it was made on her.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, cubanmiamiboy said:

Exactly. And I assume not because of lack of technical capabilities. 

Well, I didn't write the post you are responding to, but I would say, yes, I have no interest in seeing NYCB dance Revelations because of their lack of technical capabilities--to be precise lack of technical abilities for Ailey's choreography; some might prefer to say lack of stylistic capabilities but in this case style and technique are not so easily separable. Revelations is based in a different way of moving than any works in NYCB's repertory including those that stretch ballet's norms. Ballet dancers can't just waltz (or pirouette) their way into it.

I'm not persuaded that great ballet dancers can do "everything." I saw Tharp's company when young, but after years of watching her work danced by ballet companies, finally watching a real Tharp dancer in her choreography again when I was a little older was still something of a revelation. And this, even though Tharp had been working directly with and on ballet dancers, and was obviously interested in exploring ballet technique/conventions. So after seasons of NYCB's and ABT's Tharp, I nearly jumped out my of seat with excitement when I saw Sara Rudner tear across the stage in some of her choreography at a City Center Tharp evening. It was if I had been watching faded sepia-toned reproductions and suddenly they came to three dimensional technicolor life.

Edited by Drew

Share this post


Link to post
20 hours ago, Mashinka said:

If I remember rightly Joyce Trisler was still with the company when I first saw them in London many, many years ago.

lucky duck

Share this post


Link to post
5 hours ago, Drew said:

Well, I didn't write the post you are responding to, but I would say, yes, I have no interest in seeing NYCB dance Revelations because of their lack of technical capabilities--to be precise lack of technical abilities for Ailey's choreography; some might prefer to say lack of stylistic capabilities but in this case style and technique are not so easily separable. Revelations is based in a different way of moving than any works in NYCB's repertory including those that stretch ballet's norms. Ballet dancers can't just waltz (or pirouette) their way into it.

 

And still Tharp's works are widely staged by ballet companies. Is "In the Upper Room" completely faithful in style and technique in such stagings to what Tharp originally conceived...? Who knows...maybe, maybe not. But neither is Giselle, or Sleeping Beauty.  And if Tharp wouldn't had been staged by MCB, I would had probably never seen it. So the ballet company at least has the merit of making it accessible to audiences. And I agree with you in something at least. And here is the big bomb:

I wouldn't like to see NYCB doing "Revelations" either because this is a work too deeply intertwined with black-America...its stories, sufferings and traditions. A company of white dancers doing it would be a travesty. And I am willing to bet this was the same rationale Arthur Mitchell had in mind when he decided to make his all black dancers Giselle historically credible by setting it in this particular community of free blacks who themselves owned slaves-(Louisiana).

Perhaps no one would nowadays do what he did with his Giselle. Maybe it could be considered offensive or politically incorrect now, but I honor his thought process about not wanting to impose a Polish -( Silesia)- community of characters on his black dancers.  The same can probably be told about "Revelations". I don't think anybody would dare to present a whole company of white dancers to embody the social struggles of black America.

 

Share this post


Link to post
10 hours ago, Drew said:

Well, I didn't write the post you are responding to, but I would say, yes, I have no interest in seeing NYCB dance Revelations because of their lack of technical capabilities--to be precise lack of technical abilities for Ailey's choreography; some might prefer to say lack of stylistic capabilities but in this case style and technique are not so easily separable. Revelations is based in a different way of moving than any works in NYCB's repertory including those that stretch ballet's norms. Ballet dancers can't just waltz (or pirouette) their way into it.

I'm not persuaded that great ballet dancers can do "everything."

I couldn't agree more with this. There's this presumption in the ballet world that classical technique will allow the classical dancer to perform works rooted in alien styles and techniques (Ailey, Graham, Limon) just as well as modern/postmodern/contemporary dancers trained in those styles and techniques. But some of the worst performances I've ever seen have been of ballet dancers flailing their way through a heritage work from the modern repertory.

In any event, I like the fact that you have to go to an Ailey company performance to see Revelations. In this era of repertory homogenization amongst dance companies, Revelations existing in a state of "isolated splendor" is a good thing.

 

Share this post


Link to post
Posted (edited)
9 hours ago, miliosr said:

 

In any event, I like the fact that you have to go to an Ailey company performance to see Revelations. In this era of repertory homogenization amongst dance companies, Revelations existing in a state of "isolated splendor" is a good thing.

 

Agreed. 

Although I am willing to be that a classical company who doesn't has to fight the racial issue for this ballet-(like Ballet Theater of Harlem)- wouldn't struggle on this piece, if correctly coached. Or at least not to the struggling point of ABT's "In the Upper Room"...I bet...😶

Edited by cubanmiamiboy
Emoji added. 😝

Share this post


Link to post
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...