How do you celebrate six decades of groundbreaking dance? If you’re the legendary Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, you stage a yearlong anniversary celebration titled “Ailey Ascending,” with a star-studded gala and new ballet as its centerpiece.
Launching its five-week holiday season in New York City on Wednesday, Nov. 28, the company, founded by choreographer Alvin Ailey in March of 1958, will host a gala benefit with honorary co-chairs and award-winning acting icons Cicely Tyson and Angela Bassett, with Shonda Rhimes, Vanessa Williams and more expected to attend. The evening will begin with a 7 p.m. performance at New York City Center, followed by a dinner party at the New York Hilton Midtown Grand Ballroom. (And believe it or not, there are still tickets and tables available for the performance and gala; proceeds will support the creation of new works, scholarships to The Ailey School, and Ailey’s educational programs for young people.)
The evening’s performances will include a one-night-only program of classic Ailey hits with a twist, including “For Alvin,” choreographed by current artistic director Robert Battle, set to Nina Simone’s “Black is the Color,” as well as Ailey’s acclaimed masterwork, “Revelations,” performed with live performances by Ledisi, Broadway star Norm Lewis and Metropolitan Opera soprano Brandie Sutton. A multimedia piece entitled Becoming Ailey will also premiere in celebration of Alvin Ailey, bringing his presence back to the audience.
But where Ailey’s voice and legacy truly shine are in the continued creation of new works by his namesake company. On Friday, Nov. 30, its first-ever two-act ballet, “Lazarus,” will make its world premiere. Created by acclaimed choreographer and inaugural Ailey artist-in-residence Rennie Harris, Lazarus is an ensemble work inspired by the life and legacy of Mr. Ailey, as well as the continued racial inequities of our nation during the 60 years since the company’s genesis. Its soundtrack merges the music of Nina Simone, Terence Trent D’Arby, Michael Kiwanuka, Odetta, original music by Darrin Ross, and the voice of Alvin Ailey himself.
Proving that Ailey is an experience for all generations to enjoy, on Thursday, Nov. 29 at 7:30 pm, the company will host Young New York Night, featuring $29 tickets for attendees between the ages of 21-30. And on every Saturday afternoon during December, the Family Matinee Series will include a free post-performance Q&A with the Ailey dancers.
Want in on the Ailey action this season? Tickets starting at $29 can be purchased online at www.alvinailey.org or www.nycitycenter.org. There are also discount tickets available for “Ailey Super Fans” who purchase tickets for more than one performance, for students with an appropriate ID and for groups of 10 or more. And for those of us unable to see the Ailey company in New York City, their annual North American tour kicks off on Feb. 1.