January 26, 2018

Experience Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater live Feb. 13

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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, recognized as a vital American “Cultural Ambassador to the World,” will perform four works from its repertory in one evening in Birmingham on Tuesday, Feb. 13.

The performance will be held in the BJCC Concert Hall and is presented by the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Alys Stephens Performing Arts Center.

On the program are “The Winter in Lisbon” by Billy Wilson, “Untitled America” by Kyle Abraham, “Ella” by Robert Battle and “Revelations” by Alvin Ailey. The program is subject to change.

The performance is set for 7 p.m. Ticket prices are $76, $56, $36 and $28. For tickets, call 205-975-2787 or visit www.AlysStephens.org.

alvin 2018 2Alvin 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 the late Alvin Ailey and a group of young African-American modern dancers, that performance changed forever the perception of American dance. The company returns to Birmingham with works that celebrate jazz legends Ella Fitzgerald and Dizzy Gillespie and touch on social issues, along with the beloved must-see classic “Revelations,” Alvin Ailey’s masterpiece that fervently explores the places of deepest grief and holiest joy in the soul.

Dizzy Gillespie’s brilliant music sets the tone for “The Winter in Lisbon,” celebrating four decades of his work. Choreographed in 1992 by Billy Wilson, this sizzling ballet pays tribute to Gillespie as the consummate jazz musician, evoking an atmosphere in which the dancers challenge, tease and pursue romance against a backdrop of rhythm and color.

“Untitled America,” a haunting work that MacArthur “genius grant” winner Kyle Abraham developed over 2015 and 2016, shines a light on the impact of the prison system on African-American families. The large-ensemble work is set to a soundscape of soul, ambient, percussive and electronic music mixed with spoken word narration by former prisoners. Dance Magazine wrote: “Kudos to Ailey – and Abraham – for keeping the revelations relevant.” The New York Times applauded Abraham’s piece as “potent and explosive and wonderfully of the moment.”

Originally created as a solo, “Ella,” a high-energy comical dance, was reinvented as a duet by the Ailey company for its December 2016 opening night gala benefit, “An Evening of Ailey and Jazz,” in anticipation of the legendary singer Ella Fitzgerald’s centennial in April 2017. Using a live concert recording of Fitzgerald performing the song “Airmail Special,” “Ella” matches the iconic singer’s virtuosic scatting with lightning-fast, articulated movement in an irresistible tour-de-force that leaves audiences (and the dancers) breathless.

Using African-American spirituals, song-sermons, gospel songs and holy blues, Alvin Ailey’s “Revelations” is more than just a popular dance work. It has become a cultural treasure beloved by generations of fans.

Using African-American spirituals, song-sermons, gospel songs and holy blues, Alvin Ailey’s “Revelations” is more than just a popular dance work. It has become a cultural treasure beloved by generations of fans. Seeing “Revelations” 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.”

Ailey once said that one of America’s richest treasures was the African-American cultural heritage — “sometimes sorrowful, sometimes jubilant, but always hopeful.” This enduring classic is a tribute to that tradition, born out of the choreographer’s “blood memories” of his childhood in rural Texas and the Baptist Church. Since its premiere in 1960, the ballet has been performed continuously around the globe, transcending barriers of faith and nationality, and appealing to universal emotions, making it the most widely seen modern dance work in the world.

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