Inside Washington D.C. ‘s John F. Kennedy Performing Arts Center, from Feb. 1-6, the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater Program troupe showcased 13 performances including classics, never-before-seen works and world favorites at the Center.
Thousands of attendees filled the foyer with tickets and vaccination cards in hand, ready to watch the performance. Alvin Ailey Dance Theater Program members were elated to be on stage in the limelight once more.
“The last time we were on stage was March 2020. It has been exciting and also a relief to get a taste of normalcy again. However, it’s also a bit nerve-wracking because we have had to come to a complete stop, then train and rehearse in these ‘quarantine bodies’ or ‘covid bodies’ where you are dealing with after-effects of covid,” performer Constance Stamatiou said.
Since 1971, Ailey’s Dance Theater Program has regularly collaborated with the Kennedy Center. It is the John F. Kennedy Center Opera House’s 50th anniversary, and the Program has been in partnership with the Center for over 50 years now.
Born in Rogers, Texas, Kennedy Center Honoree Alvin Ailey was a prominent innovator, visionary and pioneer who created the Alvin American Dance Theater to integrate American modern dance while encapsulating the African-American experience. Alvin Ailey died in December of 1989.
“Mr. Ailey started this company out of passion but also necessity. He saw that there weren’t many opportunities for POC to perform and choreograph on concert dance stages so he created space. By him creating this company, now an organization, he also created a platform for me to be seen and act as Black dance representation in a time where it is still very much necessary,” Ailey performer Jacqueline Green Miller said.
As the lights dimmed and curtains rose in the theater, viewers were transported into Ailey’s vision – a vision filled with lessons about pain, love, mortality and triumph. Each performance incorporates elements of Black Christian culture, yet it emphasizes the experiences of Black people.
Each dancer displayed their flair through power and agility while demonstrating synchronization as a troupe, combining ballet and modern dance styles.
“We are a versatile company, and sometimes we have to get down and grounded in our roots, and sometimes we have to slip on our ballet slippers and show our technique. Mr. Ailey always wanted dancers with a ballet bottom and a modern top. He wanted technique but dancers who can move,” Stamatiou said.
Within the program’s itinerary consists of varying lessons and portrayals of Black livelihood. For example, Ailey’s Revelations portrays the migration of Africans to the Americas and the development of African American culture while encapsulating the story of strength and resilience. Current Artistic Director Robert Battle, Rennie Harris and Judith Jamison’s performance, called “Love Stories,” displays the importance of exposure for future generations to authentic Black experiences.
Howard University Graduating Senior and performance attendee Inez Jacobs-Hinton is one of the many viewers who personally reflected on the Program’s impact, specifically through Stamatiou’s rendition of Alvin Ailey’s Cry.
“To me [Stamatiou’s performance] showed the struggles of being Black women, specifically Black mothers. Even when we’re not our best selves, we don’t have the luxury to drop responsibilities. Through the section of the show she would move a certain way and break it down to something more raw and authentic. It was full circle for me and something that I can definitely relate to,” Jacobs-Hinton said.
Upon the curtains falling, the DMV audience rose to their feet in admiration of the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater Program’s performance.
“Mr. Ailey always said ‘Dance came from the people and should always be delivered back to the people,’ so these songs and themes through his movement are our way of giving back,” Miller said.
Copy edited by Jasper Smith