In 1958, Alvin Ailey, famed American dancer and choreographer founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, which has since become one of the world’s most revered modern dance organizations. The premise behind Ailey’s conceptualized idea was to draw upon his "blood memories" of his native Texas, while conveying those ideas elaborately in a modern dance setting. He drew upon the music that included gospel, jazz, spiritual influences and the blues as a source of inspiration. Over the course of 31 years and until his death in 1989, Ailey created 79 miraculous artistic dance impressions. His masterworks continue to this day under the direction of Judith Jamison, the organization’s artistic director. She has not only expanded the influences of Alvin Ailey, her direction and vision has brought about measured success over the years. On February 17, 18, and 19, 2006, Ms. Jamison brought the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater to Houston, Texas to re-visit Ailey’s original mission as well as a number of new works they have accumulated throughout their existence. The troupe’s return to the city was much appreciated, publicized and highly anticipated, especially when it has been two years since their last visit.
Under the auspices of Houston’s Society for the Performing Arts, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performed in Jones Hall as a part of the Society’s "Dance, Family Fun, International, Music and New Now Series." The dance company performed with considerable prowess, verve and zeal a number of their original classics as well as some new ones to the delight of their Houston audience. No one knew what to expect on the night of February 18, due in part to the dance company’s two-year absence. "Love Stories" began the evening of entertainment with musical input from Stevie Wonder’s "Fingertips," "If It’s Magic," and "Another Star." Created by Judith Jamison in collaboration with hip-hop innovator Rennie Harris, as well as choreographer Michael Battle, "Love Stories" is based upon the Akan word Sankofa which when translated means: "We don’t know where we are going unless we know where we have been." Basically, the company pays tribute to the legacy of Alvin Ailey and the African-American dance heritage. The work takes the music of Stevie Wonder and sets it to rhythmic choreographed movements influenced by Philly bop, hip-hop, Caribbean, West African and eclectic modern dance nuances. The magnetic appeal of "Love Stories" was felt throughout Jones Hall as the audienced voiced their approval. Other works including "Solo," "Acceptance In Surrender," "Caught," "Take Me To The Water" as well as the classic Alvin Ailey masterpiece entitled "Revelations" pushed the envelope of creativity. What is just as important is the manner in which the dance theater grows in scope with each passing year.
"Revelations" is a constant in the repertoire of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and it continues to have as much impact as it always has had. First presented in 1960 as a tribute to Ailey’s boyhood Baptist background, the piece is filled with fervent spiritual devotion. The aesthetic appeal can be found in its underlying image of a higher power, as it explores the relevance and existence of one’s spiritual beliefs. "Revelation" was inspired by the experiences of small black churches throughout Texas, those involving the power of prayer, singing and preaching the gospel. By the end of this masterwork, the audience was singing and moving to the theme "Revelations." When viewing the creations of Alvin Ailey, Judith Jamison and all the contributing choreographers who have inspired audiences throughout the world, the company makes it look easy; however, the vision and the mantra is always the same.
The Alvin Ailey American Dance Company is one of the most unique experiences in the performing arts. Judith Jamison and her troupe of dancers and choreographers provide an Afro-centric approach to modern dance, while keeping the legacy of Alvin Ailey alive. In a very creative manner, music and dance are married in varying shades of human musical interaction. Collectively, their introspective view of life runs the gamut of everything original. The boldness of Ailey’s creations are augmented by sensitivity and emotion. As one examines the history of the dance company, every available influence including Duke Ellington, Jessye Norman, Nina Simone and Earth, Wind & Fire. During their much-heralded finale, "Rocka My Soul" provided audiences with an overview of what the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is all about. Whenever the Society for the Performing Arts brings this group through Houston, the skies of imagination and inspiration open up for the entire city to see. If you have ever experienced the relevance of this dance company, the underlying influences of jazz, classical, opera, hip-hop, the blues and other styles of music are truly tied to the intuitive creative spirit that come from within, conveyed through the spirit and vision of artistic impression. The spirit that is seen in the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater can also be found in the Society for the Performing Arts.The Society for the Performing Arts (S.P.A.) is the largest non-profit presenting organizations of its kind in the Southwest. For more than 39 years, the S.P.A. has sponsored more than 700 performances, In that amount of time, traditional, avant-garde, large orchestras, solo performers, dance companies and recitalists have presented some of the most prolific music, dance and theater events ever experienced in Houston. The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has been an integral part of that history. In looking towards the future, the S.P.A. will continue to do what it has always done best by bringing the World’s best to Houston as a mandate.