Regional/National Tour Dance Feature: ALVIN AILEY AMERICAN DANCE THEATER (Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa)

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by Tony Frankel on March 1, 2012

in Theater-Regional,Tours


AIDS wreaked havoc on the theater world in all of its incarnations, and the crushing effects of its devastation remain with us today. So many ingenious creators were robbed from us that imagining the works that may have been instigates an unspeakable grief so vast that, at times, it seems best not to broach the subject at all. Artists such as director Michael Bennett and writer Howard Ashman are simply irreplaceable. Certainly we can witness a revival of A Chorus Line or pop in a DVD of Beauty and the Beast, but these mavericks of the theater only left a legacy; of the thousands that nature absconded, there would be no successors.

Artistic Director Robert Battle

However, while genres such as musical theater still struggle to reinvent themselves, the world of dance, no less devastated by AIDS, seems to have flourished in two arenas. First, pieces that were choreographed before the epidemic by luminaries such as Robert Joffrey, whose death from AIDS was kept secret from the media, have been lovingly revised in their original manifestation with a sparkle and vitality that calls forth the spirit of the great impresario.

Second, some dance companies have not only managed to continue showcasing the works of the fallen, but continue reinventing themselves with the development of unique and exciting pieces that also honor the visionary work of their founder. Such is the case with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, which is visiting the Segerstrom Center for the Arts from March 6-11, 2012, as part of their National Tour under the helm of new Artistic Director Robert Battle. For his first season as artistic director, Battle has chosen to add to the Ailey repertoire a rich array of productions that express his vision for the company while honoring some of his most significant artistic influences.

The Company, recognized by U.S. Congress as a vital American “Cultural Ambassador to the World,” brings the Southern California premieres of “Arden Court” (1981), the first Paul Taylor piece to be brought into the Ailey repertoire; “Home” (2011) by bold hip-hop choreographer Rennie Harris; Ohad Naharin’s “Minus 16” (1999), featuring improvisation and audience participation; and one of Battle’s first bravura solos, “Takademe” (1999). In homage to the artistry of Alvin Ailey, the Company will dance a new staging of “Streams” (1970). The Ailey will also perform repertoire favorites including Battle’s “The Hunt” (2001), Ulysses Dove’s “Urban Folk Dance” (1990) and both Ailey’s “Memoria” (1979) and his “Night Creature” (1975), which also serves as a tribute to the music of Duke Ellington.

Another great work of art is the AIDS Memorial Quilt, which is a revelation in its extraordinary power to honor those who died by simply remembering their names on a panel of fabric. By supporting the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, you not only get to be entertained but help to ensure that Ailey’s name and the genius associated with it will never be forgotten. Thus, it is fitting that Ailey’s 1960 beloved masterpiece, “Revelations,” ends each of the various programs at every performance. The suite, a tribute to African American heritage, fervently explores the places of deepest grief and holiest joy in the soul. In viewing it, we are allowed to grieve for Ailey’s passing over two decades ago from AIDS, while celebrating the fact that this art form keeps his name alive. When you support this company, you sustain the arts in America and inspire future choreographers who will, no doubt, deliver joy back to us and to generations to come.

photos by Andrew Eccles

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Segerstrom Hall at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa (Regional Theater)

Scheduled to end on March 11, 2012
for tickets, visit

tour continues through May 12; for tour dates and tickets, visit


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