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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Returns to Aronoff Center

“Dance is for everybody,” late, great American choreographer Alvin Ailey famously said. “I believe that dance came from the people and that it should always be delivered back to the people.”

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater returns to the Aronoff Center for the first time since 2008 with two programs March 3 and 4. The mixed rep evenings of classic and new work both include Ailey – and American modern dance – masterwork Revelations.

Revelations debuted in its first iteration in 1960, demonstrating how Ailey practiced what he preached. Musically driven by spirituals, the dance of grief, struggle, hope, cleansing, and ultimately celebration, joy, and praise to God came from Ailey’s soul.

A tribute to his heritage and inspired by his "blood memories" of his childhood in rural Texas -- memories of people, movement, and music he heard growing up – it suggests a personal chapter in the history of the African-American experience: the hard times of I Been ’Buked to the rousing calypso beat of Wade in the Water to the triumphant finale Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham.

More people have seen Revelations than any other modern dance work, more than 23 million people in 71 countries across six continents.  (Find video clips to preview “Revelations” here.

“It’s still new,” said Ailey dancer Fana Tesfargiorgis, of the classic that was first performed probably before her parents were born. “I think it will always be my favorite. It’s about roots and foundation, but it’s also about the present and future. In the final movement, the spirit overflows from the stage to the audience.”

The coming together of hearts, Tesfargiorgis said, is “wonderful.” Dancing with the Ailey company, she adds, “is living a dream.”

With Revelations danced both nights, which rep program to choose? Here are the options:

Tuesday, March 3: 

Grace (1999). Choreographer Ronald K. Brown (an area favorite with his company Evidence, who have been part of Contemporary Dance Theater’s Aronoff series) uses the music of Duke Ellington, Roy Davis Jr., Paul Johnson, and Fela Anikulapo Kuti and his signature blend of modern dance and West African idioms to create a dance journey acknowledging the grace that surrounds us.

Episodes (1989) Ulysses Dove (former Ailey Company member) created this explosive, passionate interpretation of expressing feelings and power struggles involved in human relationships, set to a percussive score by Robert Ruggieri.

Wednesday, March 4:

Polish Pieces (1995/Ailey Company Premiere 2014) Dutch choreographer van Manen suggests folk dance in his work that masterfully builds dazzling movement from simple motifs and geometric patterns.  Driven by the rhythms of Henryk Górecki’s score, the 12 dancers in this create a kaleidoscope through endlessly shifting formations that culminate with two sensual pas de deux.  

Awassa Astrige/Ostrich (1932/Ailey Company Premiere 2014) Sierra Leone-born choreographer Asadata Dafora blended his vision of a traditional African dance with Western staging in Awassa Astrige/Ostrich - a groundbreaking solo in 1932 set to Carl Riley’s score of African drumming and flute.  With arms flapping like wings, torso rippling and head held high, a warrior is transformed into the proud, powerful ostrich — the king of birds. Dafora is recognized as one of the first to present African dance on the concert stage, influencing many future artists including Pearl Primus and Katherine Dunham.  

Four Corners (2013) Choreographer Ronald K. Brown’s fifth work for the Ailey’s company is set to the music of Carl Hancock Rux and various artists, and takes 11 dancers on a spiritual journey, bringing to life the vision of four angels standing on the four corners of the earth holding the four winds.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, 7:30 p.m. March 3-4, Aronoff Center for the Arts, 650 Walnut St., Cincinnati. Tickets $75-$30 (subject to change; does not include fees.) HALF-PRICE Student/Educator tickets are available by phone or at the Ticket Office by mentioning promo code EDUCATE.  Limit (2) tickets per person with a valid student ID. Subject to availability. 513-621-2787, and at the Aronoff Center Ticket Office.

Written by Jackie Demaline, RCN Arts

Photo: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Alvin Ailey's Revelations. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

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