By Thomas F. DeFrantz
Within the early Nineteen Sixties, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater was once a small, multi-racial corporation of dancers that played the works of its founding choreographer and different rising artists. via the overdue Nineteen Sixties, the corporate had turn into a well known African American inventive team heavily tied to the Civil Rights fight. In Dancing Revelations, Thomas DeFrantz chronicles the troupe's trip from a small glossy dance corporation to 1 of the ideal associations of African American tradition. He not just charts this upward thrust to nationwide and overseas renown, but in addition contextualizes this growth in the civil rights, women's rights, and homosexual rights struggles of the overdue 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 vibrant descriptions and gorgeous illustrations, DeFrantz unearths the connection among Ailey's works and African American tradition as a complete. He illuminates the twin fulfillment of Ailey as an artist and as an arts activist dedicated 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 show 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 means 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 e-book to envision the cultural resources and cultural influence of Ailey's paintings, Dancing Revelations is a vital 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
By its end, the dancers hold their bodies proudly erect, no longer impersonating rural churchgoers, but now displaying facility in concert dance technique. Moving in unison, they turn and drop to the floor, ending on their knees in a frozen pose timed to the last beat of music, their arms stretched toward the heavens and heads thrown back in ecstasy. The movement vocabulary here draws on classic jazz dance steps: struts, rhythmic floor patting by bare feet, shaking of the shoulders and torso, and movement phrasing in blocks of insistent eight.
Ailey threw himself into the persona of Horton’s creative heir: “I knew nothing about making dances for a group so I put everything about modern dance which I had read or seen into the work. In addition, I did everything the way that I thought Lester would have done it. . ”15 The strategy also secured the support of the Horton company dancers, each of whom possessed substantial experience beyond Ailey’s. Working collaboratively, Ailey found choreographic inspiration in dances that expressed his feelings toward the Horton studio family.
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 final gospel exclamation, “Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham,” ends the service on a celebratory high. Again the staging follows the musical structure closely, with choreographic changes mirroring transitions from chorus to verse, tonal modulations, and the rising intensity of the singing ensemble.
Dancing Revelations: Alvin Ailey's Embodiment of African American Culture by Thomas F. DeFrantz