March 21, 2008
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater celebrates Golden Anniversary in Hancher
One of the world's most beloved and respected dance companies, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, will celebrate its Golden Anniversary in performances at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, April 8-9, in the University of Iowa Hancher Auditorium.
A half-century after its founding, the company continues to perform with style, verve and a passion for dancing under the leadership of artistic director and former Ailey star Judith Jamison, who has announced that she will become emeritus director in 2011.
The company's rehearsal director is Iowa City native Ronni Favors (photo, right), who began her studies in Iowa before attending the Ailey School as a scholarship student. Her professional performance career included a stint in the company of UI alumnus Lar Lubovitch.
"Its dancers are better than ever, with the marvelous athleticism, vivid personalities and sleek sensuality the company has long fostered," John Rockwell wrote in the New York Times.
The Hancher event will begin with a film, "Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at 50: A Golden Anniversary Celebration," produced and directed by Amanda Rogers and Stephen Mann.
Works on the performance program include "Love Stories" (2004), choreographed by Jamison with modern dance maverick Robert Battle and hip-hop pioneer Rennie Harris to music by Stevie Wonder; "Solo" (1997), choreographed by Hans van Manen; "Vespers" (1986), choreographed by Ulysses Dove; and Ailey's signature piece, "Revelations" (1960), which grew out of his religious experiences growing up in Texas.
Van Manen divides his kinetic "Solo" among three dancers in a work that challenges the Ailey men's daring agility and grace. This explosive display of virtuosity and wit launches the men into a whirlwind of movement and musicality that the San Francisco Examiner critic declared "epitomizes dance at its essence."
Dove's athletic choreography is similarly a challenge for the Ailey women. Mikel Rouse's percussive score for "Vespers" propels the dancers across the stage in a work that the Village Voice critic proclaimed "an exemplary vehicle for six Ailey women, showing off their streamlined power and how coldly they can burn."
Ailey said that one of America's richest treasures was the cultural heritage of the African-American -- "sometimes sorrowful, sometimes jubilant, but always hopeful." "Revelations" is a tribute to that heritage and to Ailey's contribution to dance. Using African-American religious music -- spirituals, song-sermons, gospel songs and holy blues -- this suite fervently explores the reaches of deepest grief and holiest joy.
Ailey's all-African-American modern-dance company gave its first performance in March 1958 at the 92nd Street Young Men's Hebrew Association in New York. The performance drew wide attention and marked the beginning of Ailey's important influence on American dance.
Since that time the company has become known for its promotion and preservation of the African-American cultural experience, as well as its goal to enhance American modern dance. The Ailey company has now performed for more than 21 million people in more than 70 countries on six continents.
As choreographer, Ailey created 79 ballets during his career. Even while creating so many pieces, Ailey added to the company's repertoire by bringing in many other choreographers and commissioning other works to be performed by his dancers. The company has now performed more than 200 works by more than 70 choreographers.
Before Ailey's untimely death he chose Jamison to take over as the company's artistic director, which she did in December 1989. Jamison says she is leading the company the way her predecessor taught her, upholding the Ailey's tradition and promoting his legacy of "dance as a medium for honoring the past, celebrating the present and fearlessly reaching into the future."
The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is supported by George A. and Barbara J. Grilley, Mary Keough Lyman, John and Sue Strauss, and W. Richard and Joyce Summerwill through the University of Iowa Foundation.
Tickets are $55/50/45; UI student $49.50/15; senior citizen $49.50/45/40.50; youth $38.50/35/31.50.
The Hancher Auditorium business hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays. From the local calling area, dial 319-335-1160. Long distance is toll-free, 1-800-HANCHER. People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services should dial 319-335-1158, which is equipped with TDD for people with hearing impairment who use that technology.
Tickets may be ordered online at http://www.hancher.uiowa.edu.
Orders may be charged to VISA, MasterCard or American Express. UI students may charge their purchases to their university bills, and UI faculty and staff may select the option of payroll deduction. Information and brochures may be requested by e-mail at email@example.com.
For UI arts information and calendar updates, visit http://www.uiowa.edu/artsiowa. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, go to http://list.uiowa.edu/archives/acr-news.html, click the link "Join or leave the list (or change settings)" and follow the instructions.
STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Arts Center Relations, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 351, Iowa City, IA 52242-2500
MEDIA CONTACTS: Christopher Zunner, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, firstname.lastname@example.org; Winston Barclay, Arts Center Relations, 319-384-0073 (office), 319-430-1013 (cell), email@example.com; Writer: Jenna Ely