Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is currently in London wowing audiences at Sadler’s Wells with their three dance programme that showcases their celebrated works and incredible dancers.
Dancer Jacquelin Harris gives us an insight into the company and the programme that includes one of the most seen modern dance pieces in the world, the masterpiece Revelations and the stunningly moving Lazarus.
Alvin Ailey is currently in London performing Revelations and Lazarus. These works are so celebrated in the dance world, can you tell us a bit about what it has been like to take them on? What was your preparation like, and how does it feel to perform them now?
Revelations is the most magical work I’ve ever performed. And I use the word magical because no matter how many times it is performed, the movement, music, and story still have the power to transcend not only the audiences but the dancers as well. It takes me on a journey and tells a story that can touch any person on any day. Mr Ailey is a genius choreographer. Many of his works have stood the test of time, but it is for good reason that Revelations is named his masterpiece.
Lazarus is a newer work in the rep that shares the story of Mr Ailey and speaks to the power of his gift. Rennie Harris is a masterful story teller. It’s a beautiful way to honor Ailey’s life; and in its own way, Lazarus has similar power and importance to the community.
It is humbling and fulfilling to bring these stories to many audiences. Each time we perform these works, I like to take a moment to appreciate all that has come before me, all that my ancestors endured, all that they made possible, so that I could live this life. And also to know that the work I am doing will give space for someone else to live their dreams.
Each time we perform these works, I like to take a moment to appreciate all that has come before me, all that my ancestors endured, all that they made possible, so that I could live this life
There’s a real sense of history in a company like Ailey, which presented its inaugural season in 1958. How do the dancers today honour that past? In what ways do they drive the art form forward?
I believe the dancers of the company are honoring the past by bringing the energy and vision of Mr Ailey into the present. It is not uncommon for former dancers to come into the studio and offer their wisdom. Mr Ailey was all about inclusion, showing that any dancer of any color can do and be who they want to be. Each time we step on the stage, doing work that may not designed for our physique or catered to our audiences, we are showing the world that you can’t and shouldn’t put anyone into a box. The most profound thing we can do is accept and appreciate people as they are.