The artistry leaps off the stage as black legs, brown arms and high-yellow bodies soar through the air in dances such as “Revelations.” At an Alvin Ailey performance it’s not quite clear what’s more beautiful: the black people on stage, or the ones in the audience swelling with pride and awe as they see people who look like them performing ballet and modern dance.
African Americans so rarely see themselves dancing majestically. Pop dances such as the “Fox Trot” and the “Charleston” have now been replaced by the “Dougie” and the a’Wobblea’. At an Alvin Ailey performance however, black men and women are the manifestation of hopes and dreams as well as pain and suffering.
Watch this snippet of “Rock My Soul”
Ailey, born during the Depression in Texas, grew up in the church and juke joints. The conflicting forces fueled his sense of black pride and influenced what would later become a world-renowned dance company. Ailey started his troupe after moving to New York in the late ’50s and being dissatisfied with the style of dances performed at company’s there.
“Revelations” is his most notable work, but its precursor was “Blues Suite.” The piece was derived from blues songs and it conveyed the African Americans’ suffering. While “Blues Suite” focused on the pain of black folks, “Revelations” showcased the perseverance and tenacity. It is a work of celebration influenced by Ailey’s rural upbringing in Texas.