On a cold January night in 1960 a 29 year-old African American dancer and choreographer named Alvin Ailey premiered a piece called Revelations at the 92nd St Y.
Inspired by what Ailey called blood memories of his rural Texas childhood, and by Negro spirituals, gospel and the blues, Revelations was about tribulation, human tenacity and the saving grace of music and dance.
That night at the Y, Ailey and his young troupe brought down the house and Revelations made modern dance history. Alvin Ailey went on to become a groundbreaking choreographer, and also a humanitarian, a social activist and a cultural ambassador. Earlier this year he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his contributions to American dance, arts education and civil rights.
Sadly the award was given posthumously, but Alvin Ailey lives on in his revolutionary work and the dance company and school of dance he founded. Last week we were at City Center to see Ailey’s American Dance Theatre perform Revelations for the eighth or ninth time. It still has the power to free my spirit and rock my soul – go see it and be moved.
Dana Susan Lehrman