Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is celebrating its 60th anniversary season. This year's NJPAC engagement is May 10-12 and features the New Jersey premiere of the Company's first two-act ballet, Lazarus from inaugural artist-in-residence Rennie Harris.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Artistic Director Robert Battle spoke with WBGO News Director Doug Doyle about the upcoming performances. Lazarus, inspired by the lifework of Alvin Ailey, will be performed on Friday and Saturday evenings, May 10 and May 11.
Battle says Lazarus addresses the racial inequities our nation has faced both in 1958 when the company was founded and today. He says the ensemble work features a soundtrack that melds Nina Simone, Terrence Trent D'Arby, Michael Kiwanuka, Odetta, original music by Darrin Ross and the voice of Alvin Ailey.
"As we talked to people within the organization or outside the organization one thing kept coming up about the 60th as we were planning, the phrase we want to hear Mr. Ailey's voice. Rennie did a lot of research of listening to interviews, listening to him (Ailey) speak, reading about some of things he experienced as a young boy. Rennie realized he wanted that to be a part of the soundtrack for the dance, to actually hear Mr. Ailey's voice and to be in a way in conversation with Alvin Ailey."
When Battle first saw Lazarus performed on stage, he was thrilled that the piece he commissioned was so spiritually deep and wonderful.
"I was moved to tears I have to confess, and seeing the audience explode with applause and emotion. You know I sort of see this stuff in my head long before it ever hits the stage and other people consume it, I'm sort of imagining what I hope will happen with this choice that I made. So I have visions of that but it is always amazing when what happens in the theater is far beyound what you could have imagined. And that's what I felt. It was overwhelming in a way and I knew that Alvin Ailey's spirit was there when that work premiered. It is a must-see."
Friday and Saturday's performance will also include Revelations, the Company's signatgure piece that pays homage to the rich African-American cultural heritage and explores the emotional spectrum of the human condition.
Sunday's matinee performance at NJPAC on Mother's Day features Timeless Ailey, composed of excerpts of treasures by the Company, kind of list a greatest hits show.
To find out more about both show, click above to hear the entire interview with Robert Battle.