When it comes to the performing arts and certainly to dance, there are few people more worthy of admiration, of inspiration and imitation than Alvin Ailey. He was both uniquely gifted and qualified to tell the African-American experience which he lived and saw and reacted to through the art of dance.
If you follow me or the podcast on social media, you know that I’m a white man who also grew up in the South. I was certainly witness to and heard tinges of racism growing up, but was fortunately sheltered for the most part from those who held such a deep-seeded hatred. A bigotry that Ailey knew first-hand. Growing up in the South, he had his own struggles with self-esteem due to the acts of racial violence so prevalent in those formative years.
Within the theater, we have playwrights and lyricists who can put difficult feelings and hard lessons into words. They show us parts of humanity that can be both glorious and despicable. But theater is not with us right now, the stage is silent. And so in the last few days, in light of the events that led to George Floyd‘s death and its aftermath, I have looked for and listened to past voices for both understanding and action, comfort and courage.
One of my most treasured experiences and memories of being here in New York City is getting to watch the Alvin Ailey American dance concerts each winter and summer. They consist of powerful and moving performances by amazingly talented dancers. And so it was only natural that my thoughts would go to the stories and emotions told through the pieces that Alvin Ailey choreographed himself, namely his iconic Revelations, which was inspired by his involvement within the Southern Black church. In fact, all of his work came forth from the people and places and experiences of his life.