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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Returns to New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS, LA – New Orleans Ballet Association (NOBA) presents the return of the iconic Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AAADT) for two main stage performances on March 22 and 23 at 8 p.m. at the Mahalia Jackson Theater. Last seen in New Orleans in 2010, AAADT celebrates 60 years as one of America’s most beloved and famous companies bringing the African-American cultural experience and dance traditions to the world’s stages. Founded in 1958 by the legendary Alvin Ailey, the company has performed for an estimated 25 million people in 71 countries on six continents and was named by a U.S. Congressional resolution as a “Cultural Ambassador to the World.” Directed by the charismatic choreographer Robert Battle, this extraordinary ensemble of 32 irresistible, powerhouse dancers “will set the stage on fire” (Chicago Sun-Times) with two completely different programs of stunning new works created for this milestone anniversary season plus company classics, including Ailey’s timeless masterpiece, Revelations, performed only during the Friday night program. Featuring brilliant music from Earth, Wind and Fire, Grover Washington Jr., and Ella Fitzgerald to legendary American jazz saxophonist and composer John Coltrane and traditional African-American spirituals, “the second the lights dim and the curtain rises, magic happens.” Essence Magazine

“Alvin Ailey forever changed the American landscape by raising up the lives and cultural heritage of African-Americans for all to see, opening the hearts and minds of people of every background and elevating the world of the performing arts,” said Artistic Director Robert Battle. “During this milestone season, we honor Alvin Ailey’s storied legacy with performances across North America. What Mr. Ailey gave us is more than a repertory and a tradition. It is a movement, a direction, a desire, a conviction that if the spirit is to live it must rise. We dedicate our 60th anniversary to the next ascent.”

AAADT “became a place where artists of all races had a home. All that mattered was talent. … And through him, African-American history was told in a way that it had never been told before — with passionate, virtuoso dance performances that transfixed audiences worldwide. Alvin said that ‘dance came from the people and that it should always be delivered back to the people.’ Alvin Ailey delivered, both through his life and through the dance company that will forever bear his name.” (former President Barack Obama at the Presidential Medal of Freedom Ceremony on November 24, 2014)

Single ticket prices for AAADT start at $35. Discounts are available for groups of 10 or more and students with a valid student ID. For more information or to purchase single tickets, call NOBA at 504-522-0996, Ext. 201, or visit www.nobadance.com. Single tickets may also be purchased through Ticketmaster by calling 1-800-745-3000 or visiting www.ticketmaster.com.

Two Main Stage Performances with Two Different Programs:

The Company brings two completely different programs filled with brand new works to celebrate its 60th anniversary season, company classics and Ailey’s must-see masterpiece Revelations. Program A on Friday, March 22, includes Stack-up by Talley Beatty; The Call by Ronald K. Brown, Shelter by Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and Revelations by Alvin Ailey.

To the background of an upbeat 1970’s beat of music by Earth, Wind & Fire, Grover Washington Jr., Fearless Four and Alphonze Mouzon, Stack-Up (1982) by pioneering choreographer Talley Beatty is “an ageless masterwork that reflects the nightlife of any era,” raves the Huffington Post. The stage sizzles with street life and physical pyrotechnics as dancers in a crowded disco dance with attitude, sass, and at times, fierce despair.

Created for the 60th anniversary, The Call (2018) by Ronald K. Brown is a joyous mix of modern and West African dance idioms that fits the Ailey dancers perfectly and showcases his themes of spiritual awakening and redemption. Set to music by Johann Sebastian Bach, Mary Lou Williams Trio, Asase Yaa Entertainment Group, The Call is Brown’s seventh work for the Company and a love letter to Alvin Ailey that inspires with Brown’s infectious call for harmony and hope. “Brown speaks to the spirt of Ailey…with unaffected, soulful choreography that gives its dancers dimension and depth,” hails The New York Times.

Originally performed by the Company in 1992, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar’s Shelter is a passionate statement about the physical and emotional deprivation of homeless people. With an inventive score that incorporates drumming by Junior “Gabu” Wedderburn and poetry by Hattie Gossett and Laurie Carlos, Shelter delivers the compelling message that the poverty of individuals will inevitably lead to the destitution of all humanity. This new production features a revised ending by Zollar and will be performed by an all-female cast.

The program will close with Alvin Ailey’s iconic Revelations (1960), considered to be “one of the most stirring masterpieces of 20th-century dance.” (Boston Globe) Revelations is a cultural treasure that is beloved by generations of fans. This American classic is Ailey’s signature masterpiece and a tribute to his heritage and genius. Set to traditional African-American spirituals, the work fervently explores the places of deepest grief and holiest joy in the soul. Seeing Revelations for the first time or the hundredth can be a transcendent experience, with audiences cheering, singing along and dancing in their seats from the opening notes of the plaintive “I Been ‘Buked” to the rousing “Wade in the Water” and the triumphant finale, “Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham.”

Program B on Saturday, March 23 will feature Members Don’t Get Weary by Jamal Roberts, Ella and Juba by Robert Battle, and EN by Jessica Lang.

In 2015, veteran Ailey dancer and 2016 “Bessie” Award winner Jamar Roberts made his choreographic debut with a work for Ailey II and in 2017, he created Members Don’t Get Weary, his first work for the main company. Inspired by the blues, the ballet is set to music by the legendary American jazz saxophonist and composer John Coltrane and is “a response to the current social landscape in America and an abstract look into the notion of one having the blues,” says Roberts. Dance Enthusiast described Roberts’ movement as “an intricate script that sweeps the stage like calligraphy.”

Originally created as a solo in 2008, Artistic Director Robert Battle’s Ella is a high-energy, comical dance that was restaged as a duet for the Company’s December 2016 opening night gala benefit, “An Evening of Ailey and Jazz," celebrating legendary singer Ella Fitzgerald’s centennial. Using a live concert recording of Fitzgerald performing the song “Airmail Special,” Ella matches the iconic singer’s virtuosic scatting with lightning-fast, articulated movement in an irresistible tour-de-force that leaves audiences and the dancers breathless. "Ella Fitzgerald’s vocal licks met their match in the two dancers’ twists, jumps and rubbery bounces.” (The Washington Post)

The evening also features a new production of Battle’s first work for the Company, Juba (2003/2018). Juba explores where ritual and folk traditions exist in today's society, as four dancers engage in a modern day "Rite of Spring" with an abstract twist. An original score by John Mackey for string quartet and percussion drives the mood of this edgy, ritualistic work, called "electrifying” by The New York Times.

The finale of the evening is EN (2018), a new work created for the Company’s 60th anniversary by the prolific and brilliant dancemaker Jessica Lang. “EN” is a Japanese word with multiple meanings of circle, destiny, fate or karma. This celebratory ensemble work is set to an original score by frequent collaborator Jakub Ciupinski, and is both Lang’s 100th ballet and her first creation for the Company. In her words, EN "reflects on the universal experience of coming full circle and, as time passes, we recognize the people we meet along life’s journey who play a part in the fate and destiny of our lives."

AAADT is sponsored by Hyatt Regency New Orleans, Pan American Life Insurance Group with additional support by Liberty Bank and The Helis Foundation Ovation Program.

Editor’s Note: Hi-res press images are available from Dropbox by clicking here.

About Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater:

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater grew from a now-fabled performance in March 1958 at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. Led by Alvin Ailey and a group of young African-American modern dancers, that performance forever changed the perception of American dance. The Ailey company has gone on to perform for an estimated 25 million people at theaters in 48 states and 71 countries on six continents and has reached millions more through television broadcasts, film screenings and online platforms. In 2008, a U.S. Congressional resolution designated the company as “a vital American cultural ambassador to the world” that celebrates the uniqueness of the African-American cultural experience and the preservation and enrichment of the American modern dance heritage. When Ailey began creating dances, he drew upon his “blood memories” of Texas, the blues, spirituals and gospel as inspiration, which resulted in the creation of his most popular and critically acclaimed work Revelations. Although he created 79 ballets over his lifetime, Ailey maintained that his company was not exclusively a repository for his own work. Today, the company continues Ailey’s mission by presenting important works of the past and commissioning new ones. In all, more than 250 works by more than 100 choreographers have been part of the Ailey company’s repertory. Before his untimely death in 1989, Ailey named Judith Jamison as his successor, and over the next 21 years she brought the company to unprecedented success. Jamison, in turn, personally selected Robert Battle to succeed her in 2011, and The New York Times declared that he “has injected the company with new life.”

Robert Battle Artistic Director

Battle became artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in July 2011 after being personally selected by Judith Jamison, making him only the third person to head the company since it was founded in 1958. Battle has a longstanding association with the Ailey organization. A frequent choreographer and artist-in-residence at Ailey since 1999, he has set many of his works on Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Ailey II, and on students at The Ailey School. The company’s current repertory includes his ballets Ella, In/Side, Mass, No Longer Silent and The Hunt. In addition to expanding the Ailey repertory with works by artists as diverse as Kyle Abraham, Mauro Bigonzetti, Ronald K. Brown, Rennie Harris and Paul Taylor, Battle has also instituted the New Directions Choreography Lab to help develop the next generation of choreographers.

Battle’s journey to the top of the modern dance world began in the Liberty City neighborhood of Miami. He showed artistic talent early and studied dance at a high school arts magnet program before moving on to Miami’s New World School of the Arts, under the direction of Daniel Lewis and Gerri Houlihan. He then was admitted to the dance program at The Juilliard School, under the direction of Benjamin Harkarvy, where he met his mentor, Carolyn Adams. He danced with Parsons Dance Company from 1994 to 2001 and also set his choreography on that company starting in 1998. Battle then founded his own Battleworks Dance Company, which made its debut in 2002 in Düsseldorf, Germany, as the U.S. representative to the World Dance Alliance’s Global Assembly. Battleworks subsequently performed extensively at venues, including The Joyce Theater, Dance Theater Workshop, American Dance Festival and Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.

Battle was honored as one of the “Masters of African-American Choreography” by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 2005, and he received the prestigious Statue Award from the Princess Grace Foundation-USA in 2007. He has honorary doctorates from The University of the Arts and Marymount Manhattan College. Battle was named a 2015 visiting fellow for The Art of Change, an initiative by the Ford Foundation. He is a sought-after keynote speaker and has addressed a number of high-profile organizations, including the United Nations Leaders Programme and the UNICEF Senior Leadership Development Programme.

About the New Orleans Ballet Association:

NOBA is the Central Gulf region’s premier presenting and service organization dedicated solely to the art of dance. NOBA’s dynamic Main Stage season annually features a diverse array of world-class companies and artists. Each year NOBA provides concerts, classes, workshops and lectures to more than 30,000 area dance enthusiasts of all ages. In addition, NOBA’s nationally recognized, award-winning education programs provide the youth of our community access to quality arts programs with over 5,000 free dance classes and workshops annually at ten sites throughout the Greater New Orleans area. 

NOBA is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA); a grant from the Louisiana Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, in cooperation with the Louisiana State Arts Council, and the NEA, a Federal agency; a Community Arts Grant made possible by the City of New Orleans; and a grant from the Louisiana Division of the Arts, Office of Cultural Development, Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, in cooperation with the Louisiana State Arts Council.

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Rosalind Hall