Alvin Ailey's Revelations Turns 50: Move, Members, Move!

City Center hosts the classic dance

It’s also appropriate that former company dancer Christopher L. Huggins made the issue of succession and empowerment the subject of his premiere, Anointed, to music by Moby and Sean Clements. This fiercely fast, high-wattage work definitely needs a program note. If you didn’t know that Huggins intended it to show Ailey guiding and passing the torch to Jamison, to convey the ensuing development of the enterprise, and to hint at the company’s bright future under its new artistic director, you might construe Anointed a bit differently. It would be easy, for instance, to see the opening section, “Passing,” for Sims and Jamar Roberts, simply as a love duet that also prefigures the man’s death (he lies down once and walks offstage alone into a blindingly white light). Yet, primed, you can view Sims’s initial tension and the duet’s many intriguing lifts—she, curled-up, hanging on her partner, or pushed high—as the interaction of an encouraging mentor and his chosen successor.

You also might wonder why Sims, over the course of the work, keeps appearing in different-colored dresses. And it might be helpful to know that Ghrai DeVore, Rosalyn Deshauteurs, Demetia Hopkins, and Stamatiou are not just four beguilingly strong, no-nonsense female dancers, who appear from nowhere in bright red dresses and orange underpants (costumes by Huggins) to dance their guts out with and for Sims. They stand for all the women who helped Jamison hold the strands of her heritage together and move it forward—women like Sylvia Roberts (director of Ailey II), Ana Marie Forsythe (long-time teacher in the school and director of the Ailey/Fordham BFA program), Nasha Thomas Schmitt (director of Ailey’s Arts in Education programs), and the late Denise Jefferson (former director of the Ailey School).

The comings and goings of the company’s men and women in the crackling choreography could be considered just business as usual, e.g., knockout dancing, with special applause for DeVore’s duet with Daniel Harder. But you might need a bit of help construing the ending, in which Roberts reappears dressed in white, with an over-the-shoulder glance and a “follow me” air, and, at the very last minute, Harder separates himself from the others to stand beside Sims—presumably channeling Battle.

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Company (Yannick Lebrun, Demetia Hopkins, Kirven James Boyd, and Rosalyn Deshauteurs) in Christopher L. Huggins’s Anointed.
Paul Kolnik
The Alvin Ailey American Dance Company (Yannick Lebrun, Demetia Hopkins, Kirven James Boyd, and Rosalyn Deshauteurs) in Christopher L. Huggins’s Anointed.

The Alvin Ailey Dance Company—for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health—has been carrying on a love affair with audiences for 52 years. From time to time, you may disagree with a course it’s following or despair over a mediocre addition to the repertory or a faded revival, but you’ll be lured back time and again by the take-no-prisoners beauty of the dancers, by Ailey’s best works, by the occasional new choreographic gem, and by the fact that, every December in New York City, Revelations will elbow its way through the Nutcrackers to send its gritty message of hope.

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