News: Hurricane effects

Monday 12 September 2005

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater received a rapturous reception at the beginning of their UK tour last week at Sadler’s Wells, with standing ovations every night. For some of the audience though, the company’s signature work Revelations had added resonance. It is danced to a selection of Negro spirituals and in this Southern Baptist context expresses the nature of the African American experience and arguably the resilience of all humankind.

Ronni Favors, the rehearsal director says of Revelations in an interview in the Independent : “It contains the defining element of what makes [the company] what it is… The passion, the beauty, the joy and the warmth that emanates from the dancers in this work made this company universally embraced around the world.”

So why didn’t the company dedicate it openly to the victims and survivors of Hurricane Katrina in the American deep South? A spokesperson for the company said it was discussed, but the decision was made not to make any statement. It has not yet been decided whether they might publicly acknowledge Friday 16 September, which President Bush has declared a day of remembrance, when they will be performing in Bradford. Choosing not to acknowledge the life-wrecking affects of the hurricane is still in effect a statement – and in that context, dancing to the triumphant hymn Wade in the Water seemed just a bit difficult to watch

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“I cannot be alone in wondering how an institution claiming to represent the African-American experience feels about beaming its upbeat message to the world just now. It only needed a word before curtain-up, a minute’s silence for New Orleans, to set the picture straight. As it was, Ailey’s 45-year-old Revelations – the great Southern States shout of affirmation of hope and faith that will sign off every performance on the coming tour – left a distinctly odd taste on opening night.” Jenny Gilbert, Sun. Independent, 11 Sep

“More than anything, Revelations strikes home as a hymn to the resilience of the African-American population in the gospel-singing South. Does anyone else wonder, like me, why the Ailey company hasn’t dedicated its performances to the stricken people of New Orleans and the Gulf coast? The company’s full title proclaims it a cultural ambassador for that country: why appear to ignore its suffering?” Jann Parry, Observer, 11 Sep

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