On March 30, 1958, a new dance company called the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater made its premiere at the 92nd Street Y with a program that included the now-classic piece “Blues Suite,” choreographed and danced by the group’s founder and namesake, 27-year-old Alvin Ailey.
The evening, billed as a one-night-only performance, launched the company into critical success and transformed the landscape of American dance. Just two years later, Ailey was back on the 92nd Street Y stage with what would become yet another widely celebrated master work: “Revelations.”
Throughout the company’s 60-year history, both “Blues Suite” and “Revelations” have provided a enduring foundation for the Ailey repertoire — a tradition that the company paid tribute to on Wednesday night during Ailey’s 60th Anniversary Opening Night Gala Benefit.
Following a staged excerpt of the Ailey-choreographed “Memoria” and a commissioned piece titled “For Alvin,” the evening’s performances concluded with a special staging of “Revelations,” performed alongside live musicians and singers, including Ledisi, Kenny Lattimore and Brandie Sutton.
The gala kicked off the company’s annual holiday season run at New York City Center, which continues with the company’s first two-act ballet, “Lazarus,” choreographed by Rennie Harris, on Friday and the world premiere of Ronald K. Brown’s “The Call” on Dec. 4.
“Alvin Ailey said, ‘I’m trying to hold up a mirror to society so that people can see how beautiful they are.’ In 1958, before the Civil Rights Movement, he made a way out of no way on a trailblazing journey to becoming one of the groundbreaking greats in African American history,” stated Ailey’s artistic director Robert Battle. “His celebration of the human spirit has lifted us up and brought us together, and his spirit still runs through the veins of this organization.”
Top Image: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Alvin Ailey's "Memoria" during the 60th Anniversary Gala at New York City Center. Photo: Christopher Duggan.