By Maiysha Kai
Legends gathered at the Lincoln Center in New York City last week to attend the 2018 Ailey Spirit Gala celebrating the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, now in its 60th year. Cicely Tyson, Carmen de Lavallade, honorary chair Jussie Smollett and more were in attendance as the company kicked off the spring season with its annual benefit, which provides much-needed scholarships for the Ailey School and supports Ailey’s innovative Arts in Education & Community Programs.
Established in 1958 as a seven-member all-black company by famed choreographer and dancer Alvin Ailey, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater quickly became known for its spectacular dancers and innovative choreography, which unapologetically referenced black culture, history and tradition, as evidenced by the groundbreaking and now iconic compositions “Revelations,” “Wade in the Water” and “Cry.”
Sixty years later, the now multicultural company is still going—and growing—strong, performing around the world in sold-out venues, and training new generations of dancers.
Afterward, guests enjoyed performances by all parts of the Ailey organization, including AileyCamp in a work by instructor Jonathan Lee and Ailey II’s Marcus Williams, dedicated to hip-hop legend Prodigy of Mobb Deep and in honor of the program’s 30th year; gifted young dancers from the Ailey School showcasing their talents in Robert Battle’s Battlefield; rising stars of Ailey II in an excerpt of Juel D. Lane’s Touch & Agree; and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in an excerpt of Jamar Roberts’ Members Don’t Get Weary and a memorable finale of Revelations.
Dancers from AileyCamp, the Ailey School, Ailey II and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performed for a crowd of luminaries, including media stars Debra Lee, Don Lemon and Angela Yee. The highlight was a “Celebrating Revelations” participatory workshop in Lincoln Center’s Josie Robertson Plaza taught by National Director of AileyCamp and former Ailey dancer Nasha Thomas. The performances were followed by an after-party under the stars on the famed Lincoln Center promenade, deejayed by husband-and-wife duo DJ M.O.S. and DJ Kiss.
The gala kicks off a season of performances that will include several new productions and world premieres by the famed company, including Jamar Roberts’ “Members Don’t Get Weary,” which lucky gala attendees caught a sneak preview of last week.