Alvin Ailey Through The Eyes of a Young Dancer
By Eden Sanaa Duncan-Smith
Most little girls open up the New Year with toys and silly glasses their parents bring home from a party the night before. Some even get a chance to watch the ball drop. I am not like most little girls. I (and my parents) prefer to do the next level stuff. So this year, after bringing in the New Year at church, we christened the year with Alvin Ailey’s New Year’s Day performance that featured two world premiere pieces and a classic!
One of the World Premiere Ballets was called Uptown which was choreographed by Mathew Rushing and the other called Among Us that was choreographed by Judith Jamison. Do you even understand what I just said? I saw an original ballet of Judith Jamison the first season it was done! Oh mercy.
The first piece Uptown was dramatic, not just dance. There was a narrator. His name was Victor. And he actually was my favorite. So he comes out on the stage in a white suit… so I thought to myself, “Is he going to dance in that suit? Not possible.” but he didn’t… not at first. Guess who helped him with the acting or his speech: Hope Boykins, one of the Revelations dancers. You have to be an Ailey groupie to know her. Victor as the narrator walked through Uptown, which really is Harlem, like I walk down the street in Brooklyn. Just telling the story. Harlem has a story and the Harlem story really inspires me.
The dancing was amazing. As a dancer, I was swept up in choreography. We had orchestra seats (and you know this!) so we could see all of the beading and sequins like stars. I kept asking which came first the New Orleans Jazz scene or the Harlem Jazz scene. The style was the same. My mom said that they probably all were around the same time but she thinks Harlem inspired the style down there cause back then the south was either really southern and conservative or poor and raunchy. Harlem defined style. They paid tribute to my favorite poet Langston Hughes and this lady named Zora Neal Hurston. She has a book called There Eyes Were Watching God. My mom said she was a big deal. They had someone read a piece of the book while someone danced. And then the divas came out… in their Cotton Club/ Savoy costumes! WOW!
Among Us was kinda like being in a museum. There was this Jin in the middle of the dance. A Jin is like a Genie. It was a deep piece about men and women and friendships. I didn’t really get it but that was the new Judith piece so I watched it out of respect for the history we knew it was. Also there was another man dancing in a suit. But his suit was funky. It had like a leotard on the back, so he could get real down and funky with it. It also had some art on it. Which was cool because like I said they were in an art gallery or museum for the dance.
It was so fun. My mom let me run around and bought me souvenirs. My mom’s co-workers Ms. Julie and Ms. Joanne were there and they gave me a booster seat so that I could see really well. While I was moving around, I saw Judith Jamison (Artistic Director) and Masazumi Chaya (Associate Artistic Director) talking in the hallway backstage and I was able to score a picture with her during intermission. I also saw the legendary Delphine T. Mantz from that great movie School Daze. Did I say I was in little dancer heaven?
Oh and Revelations!
Let’s not forget Revelations. As always, that was awesome. But the older I get… the more I understand why we are so connected to that piece. What was interesting is that there was a white man who was working it out in it during “Wade in the Water”. I always like “Wade in The Water” but now I am all in for “Fix Me Jesus”. It was in one word AMAZING.
The show overall was great. Who can give a bad review to Ailey???? It’s always great!!!
-Eden Sanaa Duncan-Smith