In an exciting finish to Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s five-week New York engagement, Sunday night’s closing performance paid tribute to Ailey’s leading woman Judith Jamison on her final season as artistic director. Jamison will now lead the company on a 24-city national tour from February through May, joined by Robert Battle who will become artistic director on July 1.
Fittingly, Battle introduced the evening, warmly saluting Ms. Jamison with quotes from Maya Angelou’s poem “Phenomenal Woman” and thanking her for the reach of her arms that have embraced him and so many others into Ailey’s continuing legacy. The one-night-only program highlighted over a dozen works from Ailey’s diverse repertory, including Alvin Ailey’s “Revelations” and “Cry,” Jamison’s signature solo, and David Parson’s gravity-defying, strobe-lit showstopper “Caught.”
Choreographers George Faison, Camille A. Brown, and Ronald K. Brown made special guest appearances in excerpts of their works, alongside Ailey’s extraordinary dancers and returning notable former company members Elizabeth Roxas-Dobrish, Toni Pierce-Sands, Linda-Denise Fisher-Harrell, Nasha Thomas-Schmitt, Asha Thomas and Alicia Graf Mack.
Standing ovations came from the sold out crowd that included luminaries such as Dr. Maya Angelou, Cicely Tyson, Rev. Calvin Butts, André Leon Talley, Ashford & Simpson, Carmen de Lavallade, musician Eric Lewis, Sweet Honey In The Rock’s Louise Robinson & Carol Maillard, choreographers Lar Lubovitch, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Dwight Rhoden and dancer Desmond Richardson – as well as many other former members of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
Onstage during the closing bows surrounded by Ailey’s dancers and crew, Jamison expressed her appreciation to audiences for supporting her and for their love of the company throughout the years. “We’re on a journey that began 52 years ago because of Alvin Ailey. His favorite song was This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine – something my incredible dancers have been doing all season. I’d like to thank Robert Battle for accepting the mantle as we look forward to shining the light brightly into the next five decades. “
Jamison, who was recently honored by First Lady Michelle Obama at the first White House Dance Series: A Tribute to Judith Jamison, over the last two decades has led Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater to new heights around the world and into a permanent home – the nation’s largest building dedicated to dance.
Along with Battle and Ailey’s extraordinary artists, she will continue the celebration of Revelations at 50 on a 24-city North American tour, beginning in our nation’s capital on Feb. 1 and continuing to other major cities such as Atlanta, Miami, Los Angeles and Chicago.
“Revelations,” an American classic called a must-see for all people, is a tribute to Alvin Ailey’s heritage and to his genius. A documentary short film by Emmy award-winning director Judy Kinberg will be shown prior to each performance, introducing the history, meaning and significance of “Revelations” with exclusive performance and interview footage of Alvin Ailey and Judith Jamison.