2009-10 OFA Flashback: The Ailey Legacy

by Dance

Throughout the summer, the Harvard Arts Beat blog is taking a look back at significant events and program highlights sponsored by the Office for the Arts. This post recalls the OFA Dance Program's immersion in the work and extraordinary legacy of legendary choreographer Alvin Ailey.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AAADT) is one of the foremost modern dance companies in the world, having performed for an estimated 23 million people in 71 countries on six continents. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Judith Jamison, the company has become an international ambassador, promoting the distinctness of African-American culture and the preservation of American modern dance.

This spring, the Dance Program focused on the life and works of Alvin Ailey. Over 30 students enrolled in Dramatic Arts 123: The Ailey Legacy, taught by guest lecturers Sylvia Waters, artistic director of Ailey II, and former AAADT dancer Elizabeth Roxas-Dobrish. Select students were chosen to perform excerpts of Ailey choreography in Dancers’ Viewpointe 10. Guest speakers from New York visited the class to share their wisdom, including former dancers Troy Powell, Donna Wood, and to culminate the semester, Judith Jamison herself.

Co-sponsored by the OFA's Learning From Performers program, Ms. Jamison’s visit on April 27 was a thrill for both students and audience, as Jamison coached the dancers through part of Ailey’s acclaimed Revelations in addition to speaking about her life experiences. Students were exhilarated and inspired by their two and a half hours with a living legend of modern dance. For more, read Amanda Lynch’s eloquent blog post.

The next day, on April 28, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater announced that Judith Jamison will pass on the mantle of Artistic Director to choreographer Robert Battle. When Battle takes over in July 2011, it signals an evolution in the enduring legacy of Alvin Ailey.

The Dance Program is honored to have experienced the Ailey tradition at such a significant turning point, and to have shared in the spirit of his genius.

[Caption: Students in DA123 demonstrate Horton technique for a master class with Judith Jamison. Photo by Andreas Randow]

[Caption: Ms. Jamison teaches students in DA123, photo by Andreas Randow]

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