Forsythe has taught Horton at AAADT since 1973 and continues to mine the technique daily for its legendary specificity and discipline. Photo by Nicole Tintle, courtesy of The Ailey School
Ana Marie Forsythe's eyes twinkle, and a smile plays at the corners of her mouth as she welcomes the 40-plus teachers who are enrolled for her two-week-long Horton teacher-training workshop at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater studios in New York City—plus me, a dancer and writer, taking part for the day. As we watch Genius on the Wrong Coast, a film about Lester Horton, the "princess of Horton" (as someone aptly refers to Forsythe) offers her own version of a director's commentary: She identifies faces as they appear onscreen and interjects her own narration ("Fortification 15—that's the one I hated so much," she says).
Though Asadata Dafora isn't widely known today, he blazed a trail for countless African-based dance companies who enjoy a firm foothold on the concert dance stage today. He reworked the spatial orientation of various cultural dances to fit a proscenium stage and made them more presentational to appeal to Western audiences.
Dafora influenced many dance artists directly, most notably Katherine Dunham, Pearl Primus and Charles Moore, and heads a rich African-dance lineage that includes such luminaries as Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and the late Chuck Davis. In 1977, Davis founded DanceAfrica, an annual festival that celebrates African culture through dance, music, art and film.
If you've seen Alvin Ailey's masterpiece, Revelations, you know why it's so popular—it's a powerful piece of dance that reflects African-American heritage and culture and takes the viewer on an emotional journey, from sorrow to elation to hope. (That Ailey choreographed this piece when he was only 29 years old makes it that much more incredible, to me.) Getting to hear what it's like to dance such a watershed piece from the performers themselves is a special treat. After all, they're the ones inside the piece, bringing it to life. Watch this short video to hear from company stars and guest artists about what makes Revelations special:
Antonio (left) and Kirven married in 2013. Photo by Matthew Karas
When Antonio and Kirven Douthit-Boyd took their final bows with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AAADT) in August 2015, they knew exactly what their next step would be. Within two weeks they moved to St. Louis, Missouri, Antonio's hometown, to become co-artistic directors of the dance program at Center of Creative Arts (COCA), the same performing arts center where Antonio had enrolled as a teenager. Their job involves guiding aspiring professional dancers and directing and choreographing performances for both the school and the performance stage.
Ailey II in Bridget L. Moore's Sketches of Flames. Photo by Kyle Froman, courtesy of Ailey
Ailey II will make its NYU Skirball Center debut March 29–April 2. The program will include two programs of premieres and returning favorites from established and up-and-coming choreographers, including Leila Da Rocha, Jean Emile, Jae Man Joo, Ray Mercer, Bridget L. Moore, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater member Jamar Roberts and former Ailey dancer Marcus Jarrell Willis.
“We are thrilled to return to New York for our annual engagement, and to present our first season at NYU Skirball Center for the Arts," says Ailey II artistic director Troy Powell. “The two programs include diverse and powerful works that showcase the strength, grace and versatility of these gifted young dancers."
The Boston Conservatory announces its first-ever full-time hip-hop faculty member. Duane Lee Holland Jr. currently serves as visiting assistant professor at his alma mater University of Iowa. He joins Boston Conservatory’s dance division this fall, to teach the primarily classically trained conservatory students full-time and offer electives to students of Berklee College of Music (which Boston Conservatory merged with this year).
Holland danced with Rennie Harris Puremovement, where he later served as assistant artistic director. He has also taught at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Broadway Dance Center and Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, and he served as assistant choreographer for Maurice Hines’ Broadway show Hot Feet.
In our July issue’s History: Lesson Plan, we learn about Alvin Ailey, who founded what would become one of the world’s most famous modern dance companies. From its earliest days, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performed dances that reflected the African-American cultural experience to concert dance audiences.
Jacqueline Green in Alvin Ailey's Cry
Check out excerpts from Ailey’s 1971 masterpiece Cry. In this piece, dedicated to black women everywhere, a woman in a long white skirt expresses anguish, strength and joy through sharp gestures, suspended balances on one leg, spinal undulations and spinning. Cry was created on Judith Jamison, who performed with the company, 1965–80, and was handpicked by Ailey to succeed him as artistic director.