By Thomas F. DeFrantz
Within the early Sixties, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater used to be a small, multi-racial corporation of dancers that played the works of its founding choreographer and different rising artists. by means of the past due Nineteen Sixties, the corporate had turn into a widely known African American creative workforce heavily tied to the Civil Rights fight. In Dancing Revelations, Thomas DeFrantz chronicles the troupe's trip from a small sleek dance corporation to at least one of the most efficient associations of African American tradition. He not just charts this upward thrust to nationwide and overseas renown, but additionally contextualizes this development in the civil rights, women's rights, and homosexual rights struggles of the past due twentieth century. DeFrantz examines the main celebrated Ailey dances, together with Revelations, drawing on video recordings of Ailey's dances, released interviews, oral histories, and his personal interviews with former Ailey corporation dancers. via bright descriptions and gorgeous illustrations, DeFrantz finds the connection among Ailey's works and African American tradition as an entire. He illuminates the twin fulfillment of Ailey as an artist and as an arts activist devoted to constructing an African American presence in dance. He additionally addresses issues approximately how dance functionality is documented, together with concerns round spectatorship and the exhibit of sexuality, the connection of Ailey's dances to civil rights activism, and the institution and upkeep of a winning, large-scale Black Arts establishment. all through Dancing Revelations, DeFrantz illustrates how Ailey mixed parts of African dance with motifs tailored from blues, jazz, and Broadway to choreograph his dances. by way of re-interpreting those tropes of black tradition in his unique and well-received dances, DeFrantz argues that Ailey performed an important function in defining the African American cultural canon within the 20th century. because the first booklet to check the cultural assets and cultural impression of Ailey's paintings, Dancing Revelations is a crucial contribution to trendy dance historical past and feedback in addition to African-American reviews.
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Additional resources for Dancing Revelations: Alvin Ailey's Embodiment of African American Culture
01 10/20/03 2:50 PM Page 13 Revelations 1962 tractions of the torso. The men dance in unison, without seeing each other, and beyond the purview of the women, who sit down and turn away from them. Later, the women stand on their stools to point at the men, chastising them in gesture as singer Sellers admonishes: “Some folks go to church for to signify, tryin’ to make a date with the neighbor’s wife. ”11 The layering of chanted text and naturalistic gesture allows the sequence a relaxed playfulness in sharp contrast to preceding sections of Revelations.
The alignment of jazz dance with gospel music reveals similar ecstatic intentions motivating both forms. In “Rocka My Soul,” Ailey confirms the fundamental connection between worship, a feature of daily life for many rural southern African Americans, and exuberant social dance, the root form of the codified jazz dance movements performed here. 01 10/20/03 D A N C I N G 2:50 PM Page 14 R E V E L A T I O N S Why Revelations Worked Dancing to spirituals allowed Ailey to suggest a political collaboration between his performance and the music’s historical legacy.
Ailey found the New York dance community remarkably fluid and available to handsome young men willing to “play black” in a limited range of ethnic roles. He danced in several Broadway musicals and fulfilled his aspirations to be recognized as a professional dancer, but he also wanted to continue the creative work he had begun at the Horton school. He found few mentors sensitive to his cultural background, and the concert dance techniques he encountered failed to engage him: “I went to watch Martha Graham, and her dance was finicky and strange.