After 40 years in the business, our Theatre Director, Mark Everett, knows his stuff. So when he gets properly excited about something, you know it’s usually well worth your while checking it out. And he’s excited about Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
For the uninitiated, they’re a New York-based dance company, which grew out of a performance in that city in 1958, by Alvin Ailey himself and a group of African-American dancers. Widely regarded as the world’s best modern dance company, their visits to these shores are infrequent, so it’s a coup for us to be able to bring them to Canterbury.
After that initial first performance, the company spent several years on the road, on what are known as ‘station wagon tours’ (station wagon is the American term for an estate car, and refers to the small scale of the companies earlier tours). In 1960, they settled in New York, although they’ve moved premises as they’ve grown.
In 1962, Ailey changed the company from an all black to a multi-racial one, believing there was a kind of reverse chauvinism to anything all black. Also in 1962, the company was chosen to tour Asia and Australia as part of President John F Kennedy’s ‘ President’s Special International Program for Cultural Presentations’, the first ‘black’ company to be chosen for the programme.
At this stage in their existence, most of the works performed by the company were choreographed by Ailey himself. He created 79 works before his death in 1989, many of them drawing upon the blues, spirituals, and gospel as inspiration. These musical styles all played their part in the creation of his most-performed and most beloved work Revelations, which will be the keystone of the company’s performances in Canterbury.
First performed in New York in January 1960 (the same year the Ailey company settled into their first permanent home) it tells the story of African-American faith and tenacity from slavery to freedom through a suite of dances set to spirituals and blues music – including some more widely known pieces like Wade In The Water.
It’s been seven years since Alvin Ailey dancers performed in the UK – so grab your chance to see this great company in Canterbury while you can.
Alvin Ailey: Friday 14 & Saturday 15 October. Book here.