Not That Will Rogers

I”m going to miss Alvin Ailey tonight…you shouldn’t

Men of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

I’m so bummed.  Tonight is the opening of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at the Auditorium Theatre and I”m in Philly.  So in my absence you should go check them out.  They are premiering a couple of new pieces in Chicago and tonight only they are performing with Sweet Honey in the Rock live….that is too much awesomeness for one stage i think.  Here is the feature i did for Newcity with some fun links.
“There was such a great energy in the theater; the performance was so magical,” Antonio Douthit says about dancing for President Barack Obama and his family earlier this year.   The young dancer from St. Louis has been with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AAADT) for five seasons now and from the time he signed his contract he has been living dream moments like this one.

AAADT is celebrating its fiftieth anniversary through 2009.  Since its inception, the company has become one of the most recognizable names in American dance. A U.S. Congressional resolution recently recognized the institution as a vital “American Cultural Ambassador to the World.” Barbie even got into the action this year with the first doll inspired by a dance company. Generations of young people, specifically young African Americans like Douthit, have grown up with the solitary dream of one day joining the company of modern dancers known for their strength , athleticism and grace.

“I knew this is where I wanted to be when I started dancing,” Douthit says.  He was 16 and performing at a school dominated by young white girls when he remembers discovering AAADT. “I was taken to a whole other place I never thought dance could go.  I had never been around a group of men that performed like men and looked like men and that was something I wanted to do.”  And so go the dreams of young artists all over the country.

Now Douthit finds himself on a fifty-city U.S. tour celebrating a golden anniversary.  This week is stop fifteen, five days at the Auditorium Theatre.  With an ambitious series of programs, AAADT will be dancing pieces that range from the company’s iconic centerpiece, Ailey’s “Revelations,” to contemporary work like that of Robert Battle’s “Unfold.” In addition, Chicago will get a first chance to see company member Hope Boykin’s “Go in Grace,”  a collaboration with Grammy Award-winning female a capella ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock.  The ensemble will accompany the dancers live on stage opening night.  Though the dancers are not even to the halfway mark of their marathon tour, it is bold programming like this that keeps them invigorated.

“We get tired.  It is the organization that keeps you going,”  says Douthit.  “I feel like we always give dance back to the community. Dance is so accessible on television and the Internet, people are learning more about the company than they ever have before.  He [Alvin Ailey] would be so thrilled that his dance is for everyone.” (William Scott)

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performs at Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Parkway, through April 5.


Not so gaga for Batsheva
February 3, 2009, 11:38 pm
Filed under: Dance, Events | Tags: , , ,

Ad from "This Week in al-Quds

Ad from "This Week in al-Quds

This was posted on the blog This Week in al-Quds on January 27th (I’m just becoming aware of it today):

“Israel’s latest brutal war on Gaza killed over 1300 people and injured over 5000; with over 400 children killed and another 1500 injured. These numbers are expected to rise as more bodies are discovered beneath the ruins. Meanwhile, Israel’s ongoing and illegal siege still does not allow crucial necessities into Gaza.

Israel’s leading dance company, Batsheva, is touring the US and Canada starting January 28th through March of 2009. As cultural ambassadors and representatives of the Israeli state, Batsheva was asked to denounce the racist and brutal policies and crimes of their government against the Palestinian people, and refused.

“Writing October 26, 2008, in The Independent of London, Jenny Gilbert reports that the dance company is “funded by Israel’s government, its performers include none of Arab extraction, and it is ‘proud to be considered Israel’s leading ambassador.'”

Activists across the country have been planning and organizing a boycott of Batsheva Dance Company for several months. The most recent Israeli atrocities in Gaza have added another sense of urgency and another layer of public anger towards Israel. In 2005, hundreds of Palestinian civil society organization called on activists and institutions around the world to organize and join the movement of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel. The calls for boycott include commercial, academic, and cultural aspects, and have been echoed by numerous Israeli and international artists, academics, and thinkers.
I offer this…

Are the arts the thing to boycott?  This concerns a major conflict that has political and social ramifications that I’ll probably never understand completely.  But perhaps some solice can be found in the fact that Israel’s leading ambassador is a dance company.  The arts are a place for healing and catharsis and conversation.  The language of dance should reach across political divides and the borders of countries.  For those that would criticize or demonize Israel, maybe honoring a dance company as a national treature can stand a reminder to their humanity.  For those who would sympathize with the demonstrators you can read more at Next Year in al-Quds or Palestine Think Tank.

Gaga for Batsheva: The Israeli dance company give us ten
February 3, 2009, 10:33 pm
Filed under: Companies, Dance | Tags: , , , ,
Batsheva Dance Company

Batsheva Dance Company

Batsheva Dance Company may be one of the most fascinating companies in the world.  If  that is so, then Ohad Naharin, the company’s artistic director, must be one of the genius choreographers of that world. Naharin’s work is familiar to Chicago.  His “Minus 16” has become an audience favorite in Hubbard Street Dance’s repertoire.  Based in Tel Aviv, this weekend the Israeli company will be at Auditorium Theatre bringing selections from ten of Naharin’s  best creations in a program called “Deca Dance.” I caught up with Brett Batterson, Auditorium’s executive director and a man who shares my excitement for this company.  We put together this short list of just a few reasons to go see Batsheva.

1. “Anyone who creates a new style of movement and has it accepted around the globe is obviously unique,” says Batterson.  The style is called Gaga and it was developed on the bodies of this company so no one does it better. The company’s Web site describes it like this: “At once we, the users, can be involved in moving slowly through space while a quick action in our body is in progress.”  The best way I know to describe it is it has characteristics of one of those inflatable waving tubes you see by car dealerships…but beautiful.

2. “The company is not afraid to try new ideas in their work and challenge the status quo a little bit.  For instance, Batterson explains, “the upcoming performances at the Auditorium include some brief nudity and mature language, but both are used to emphasize the message of the work.  It is not about simply shocking the audience or as an attempt to be hip and trendy.”

3. “The company helps build bridges between Israel and other communities around the world,” Batterson feels.  It has been fifteen years since Batsheva came to Chicago and it seems to be an opportune time.  Just when the entire world could use a few bridges.

If you want to know more, visit Batsheva’s website (, or go on opening night (February 7) for the opportunity to hear Naharin speak at a post-show discussion.

At Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Parkway, (312)902-1500. February 7 & 8, $30-$89.