The Sporting Life: Ailey Revealed Edition

Ailey dancers Jamar Roberts, Solomon Dumas, and Jacqueline Green. (photo by Andrew Eccles)

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater returns to Nashville for Ailey Revealed on February 28 and 29, 2020, two distinctive performances featuring several new works and a classic to close out Black History Month. TPAC’s Andrew Jackson Hall hosts the troupe Friday, February 28th for The Call, Cry / EN / Revelations and on Saturday, February 29th for Lazarus / Revelations.

The Call has its Nashville Premiere: Ronald K. Brown’s joyous mix of modern and African dance—seen previously in Grace, Open Door, and other works—fits the Ailey dancers perfectly, and his themes of spiritual awakening and redemption never fail to inspire.

Cry: Alvin Ailey choreographed his signature solo Cry as a birthday present for his dignified mother, and created the dance on his stunning muse, Judith Jamison. Mrs. Cooper (Alvin Ailey’s mother) and Ms. Jamison could both be considered the archetypal Ailey woman – a role that has been passed on to all the women in the Ailey ranks to whom Ms. Jamison has taught this solo.

In her autobiography Dancing Spirit, Ms. Jamison wrote: “Exactly where the woman is going through the ballet’s three sections was never explained to me by Alvin. In my interpretation, she represented those women before her who came from the hardships of slavery, through the pain of losing loved ones, through overcoming extraordinary depressions and tribulations. Coming out of a world of pain and trouble, she has found her way-and triumphed.”

EN also has its Nashville Premiere: Winner of the Bessie and Arison Awards, Jessica Lang makes her choreographic debut at the Ailey company with EN, her 100th ballet. “En” is a Japanese word with multiple meanings of circle, destiny, fate or karma, and the theme of her new work is about coming full circle. This celebratory ensemble work is set to an original score by frequent collaborator Jakub Ciupinski and (in Lang’s own words) “reflects on the universal experience of coming full circle and, as time passes, we recognize the people we meet along life’s journey who play a part in the fate and destiny of our lives.”

Lazarus is another Nashville Premiere: In the Company’s first two-act ballet, acclaimed hip-hop choreographer Rennie Harris completes a trilogy of works – including past Ailey audience favorites Exodus and Home — with this hour-long work inspired by the life and times of Mr. Ailey. With Lazarus, Harris connects past and present in a powerful work that addresses the racial inequities America faced when Mr. Ailey founded this company in 1958 and still faces today.

And of course, the classic Revelations: Using African-American spirituals, song-sermons, gospel songs and holy blues, Alvin Ailey’s Revelations fervently explores the places of deepest grief and holiest joy in the soul. More than just a popular dance work, it has become a cultural treasure, beloved by generations of fans. Seeing Revelations for the first time or the hundredth can be a transcendent experience, with audiences cheering, singing along and dancing in their seats from the opening notes of the plaintive “I Been ’Buked” to the rousing “Wade in the Water” and the triumphant finale, “Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham.”

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater grew from a now-fabled performance in March 1958 at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. Led by American dance icon Alvin Ailey and a group of young African-American modern dancers, that performance changed forever the perception of American dance. Engage your emotions when Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater returns to TPAC with works that touch on timely topics like the beloved classic Revelations, Alvin Ailey’s masterpiece that fervently explores the places of deepest grief and holiest joy in the soul.