AAADT Benefit Hosts (Left to Right) Kenneth Chenault, Kathryn Chenault, Board President Daria L. Wallach, Eric J. Wallach, Judith Jamison, Honorary Chair Gabrielle Union, Artistic Director Robert Battle, Board Chair Joan Weill, Sandy Weill, Debra Lee, David Peetz and Karen Peetz. (Photo by Christopher Duggan)

*Christmastime is the most favorite time of the year.  It’s a time for joyous holiday happenings brimming with year-end grandeur.  To that end, one of the most beautiful galas of all was the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AAADT) opening night gala benefit led by Artistic Director Robert Battle on Wednesday, December 4, 2013 at the magnificent New York City Center (NYCC) that was all decked out with stunning Christmas decorations.

Some 1,000 gorgeously dressed luminaries attended the yuletide event that kicked off Ailey’s 2013-14 Season at NYCC with an opulent opening night gala benefit hosted by Honorary Chair Gabrielle Union and Co-Chaired by Simin Allison & in memory, Herb Allison, Kathryn & Kenneth Chenault, Daria L. Foster & Erich J. Wallach, Agnes & Gerald Hassell, Debra L. Lee, and Joan & Sandy Weill.

The charismatic evening raised over $2.4 million for the creation of new works and Alvin Ailey’s extensive educational programs for young people, including AileyCamp and scholarships to The Ailey School.

As guests took their seats, excitement filled the air as the curtain went up to reveal a spectacular set by minimalist architect John Pawson for the company premiere of Wayne McGregor’s Chroma,  a ballet filled with layered, beautiful dancing and amazing lifts.

“Often in my own choreographies I have actively conspired to disrupt the spaces in which the body performs.  Each intervention, usually some kind of addition, is an attempt to see the context of the body in a new or alien way.  On reading John Pawson’s Minimum, I was captivated by this notion of subtraction, the ‘essential’ space, which seems to reduce elements to make visible the invisible.  Intriguingly, although Pawson’s designs do give definition to space(s), they are somehow always boundary-less.  This potential ‘freedom space’ would be an extraordinary environment for a new choreography, where the grammar and articulation of the body is made crystal clear, graphic and unmediated.  It could be a space where the body becomes absolutely architectural.  At the same time, in creating volume(s) of tone for the choreography to inhabit the body can behave as a frequency of colour – in freedom from white, stated McGregor.

The groundbreaking British choreographer’s contemporary ballet is full of sensory surprises — sumptuous movement and a driving score by Joby Talbot with orchestrations of songs by The White Stripes.

“I heard Joby Talbot’s Hovercraft piece for orchestra and felt its immediate physical impact – visceral, unsettling, hungry and direct.  These short five minutes became our keystone to unlocking a strangely seductive score that tensions the aggressive force of the White Stripes with the enigmatic beauty of Talbot’s own compositions,” explained McGregor.

This Ailey company premiere, made possible with generous support of NYCC, marks the first time a work by this multi award-winning British choreographer appears in the Ailey repertory.  The gala performance concluded with Alvin Ailey’s timeless masterpiece, Revelations, which was accompanied by live music.

Since its debut in 1960, Revelations has moved audiences around the world through its powerful storytelling and soul-stirring music — evoking timeless themes of determination, hope, and transcendence.  More people have seen Revelations than any other modern dance work, and it has been enjoyed by over 23 million people in 71 countries across six continents.  This timeline depicts some key historical highlights and transformations throughout its 50-year history.

The stylish celebration continued at the gala after party in the Hilton New York’s grand ballroom with Ailey’s Board of Trustees led by Chair Joan Weill and President Daria L. Wallach, AAADT Executive Director Bennett Rink, and many celebrated guests including models Joan Smalls and Carolyn Murphy, actor Taye Diggs, chef Marcus Samuelsson, actor/singer Tristan “Mack Wilds,” opera star Jessye Norman, Elaine Wynn of Wynn Resorts and many more who joined in dinner and dancing with the stars of the celebrated AAADT.

AAADT gratefully acknowledges the support of Diageo during the NYCC Season.  The 2013-2014 season is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

Wells Fargo is the presenting sponsor of AAADT’s New York Season.  The dazzling opening night gala benefit sponsors included Simin Allison and in memory, Herb Allison, American Express, BET Networks, BNY Mellon, Daria L. Foster & Eric J. Wallach, Joan & Sandy Weill and The Weill Family Foundation.  American Express is the official airline of AAADT and the lead funder of D-Man in the Waters (Part I).

In addition to the one-night-only opening gala benefit, Ailey enthusiasts are encouraged to ring in 2014 with an  exceptional New Year’s Eve performance featuring Revelations danced by beloved Ailey stars of the past and present, including Linda Denise Fisher-Harrell, Renee RobinsonElizabeth Roxas-DobrishDudley Williams and Donna Wood Sanders.  Along with a variety of premieres, Ailey’s 2013 – 2014 season will include a number of special programs throughout the five-week run.

On Tues., Dec. 17 the Company will celebrate renowned guest artist Matthew Rushing, who has been inspiring Ailey audiences for over two decade and is acclaimed as one of the great male concert dancer artists.

“All New” programs (Dec. 20, 22 eve, 26, 28 eve, and Jan. 2) feature premieres of Ronald K. Brown’s Four CornersAszure Barton’s LIFT, the Bessie Award-winning work D-Man in the Waters (Part I) by Bill T. Jones, and the groundbreaking Chroma.

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AAADT “Revelations” with Matthew Rushing and Dwana Adiaha Smallwood

In a program aptly titled Ailey/Ellington (playing Dec. 13, 15 mat, 18, 21 mat), ballets showcasing the marriage of Ailey’s choreography and Ellington’s music will be presented, including Night Creature, Pas de Duke, and The River.

The Ailey Classics program (Dec. 14 mat, 24, 29 mat, Jan. 4 mat) is a vibrant anthology of highlights from Mr. Ailey’s prolific 30-year career — including such audience favorites as CryA Song for You,  and For ‘Bird’–With Love — and the beloved classic Revelations. Alvin Ailey’s iconic Memoria will include performances by talented young students from The Ailey School and his signature American masterpiece Revelations will be performed with live music (Dec. 4, 6, 7 mat & eve).

The January 5, 2014 finale performance marks the close of the 25th season since the passing of the Company’s legendary founder and will celebrate what would have been Alvin Ailey’s 83rd birthday with a season highlights program and Revelations  in its entirety.

Tickets starting at $25 are now on sale for all season performances through January 5, 2014.  Visit www.alvinailey.orgwww.citycenter.org, call CityTix (212-581-1212), or the New York City Center box office.

Ailey’s exciting season, the 25th since the passing of legendary founder Alvin Ailey, continues throughout the holidays in New York, then tours 23 cities across North America beginning in February.

Upcoming Performance Highlights Include:
Lift, a world premiere by in-demand choreographer Aszure Barton, is an exhilarating new work that celebrates and challenges the cast of 19.  Created with Barton’s collaborative stylistic approach that is constantly evolving like no other. Ailey’s renowned dancers inspired the process, movement and composition, as well as the original percussive score by Curtis Macdonald.

D-Man in the Waters (Part I) is a true modern dance classic and a New York Dance and Performance (“Bessie”) Award-winning work by modern dance innovator Bill T. Jones, a Tony Award-winner for Fela! and Spring Awakening.  Originally created in 1989, it is a celebration of life and the resiliency of the human spirit that embodies loss, hope and triumph with non-stop movement set to Mendelssohn’s Octet for Strings in E-flat Major, Op. 20 (1825).

Ailey/Ellington Nights
In a program aptly titled Ailey/Ellington (playing Dec 13, 15 mat, 18, 21 mat), ballets showcasing the marriage of Ailey’s choreography and Ellington’s music will be presented including Pas de Duke,  Alvin Ailey’s modern dance translation of a classical pas de deux, which was created in 1976 for two of the world’s most renowned dancers, Judith Jamison and Mikhail Baryshnikov; and The River, which combines classical ballet, modern dance, and jazz in sections suggesting tumbling rapids and slow currents on a voyage to the great sea, mirroring the journey of life.

About Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater,   recognized by U.S. Congressional resolution as a vital American “Cultural   Ambassador to the World,” grew from a now‐fabled March 1958   performance in New York that changed forever the perception of American   dance. Founded by Alvin Ailey, and guided by Judith Jamison beginning in   1989, the Company is now led by Robert Battle, whom Judith Jamison chose to   succeed her on July 1, 2011. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has performed   for an estimated 23 million people in 71 countries on 6 continents, promoting   the uniqueness of the African‐American cultural experience and the   preservation and enrichment of the American modern dance tradition.In addition to   being the Principal Dance Company of New York City Center, where its   performances have become a year‐end tradition, the   Ailey company performs annually at the John F. Kennedy Center for the   Performing Arts in Washington, DC, the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago, the   Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami‐Dade County   in Miami, The Fox Theatre in Atlanta, Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley, CA and at   the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark where it is the Principal   Resident Affiliate), and appears frequently in other major theaters   throughout the United States and the world during extensive yearly tours.The Ailey   organization also includes Ailey II (1974), a second performing company of   emerging young dancers and innovative choreographers; The Ailey School   (1969), one of the most extensive dance training programs in the world; Ailey   Arts in Education & Community Programs, which brings dance into the   classrooms, communities and lives of people of all ages; and The Ailey   Extension (2005), a program offering dance and fitness classes to the general   public, which began with the opening of Ailey’s permanent home — the largest   building dedicated to dance in New York City, the dance capital of the world   — named The Joan Weill Center for Dance, at 55th Street at 9th Avenue in New   York City.  For more information,   visit www.alvinailey.org.New York based award-winning journalist Audrey J.   Bernard covers entertainment, fashion & beauty, film, lifestyles and   travel for the Electronic Urban Report and other outlets.  Contact her via: [email protected]

audrey bernard

Audrey J. Bernard