Eternally Ailey

Say the name Alvin Ailey and images of lithe ebony bodies come to mind. His choreography inspired via simple gestures -- a male lead stretching his arms to the sky, a voluminous skirt fluttering midleap, a white umbrella held aloft. The man knew how to make a powerful visual statement, all right. And seventeen years after his death, which Maya Angelou likened to the falling of a great tree, the fruits of his labor are still as sweet and bountiful as ever.

This weekend local audiences will be blessed with four performances during the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s only South Florida engagement. And culture lovers would be remiss to let it pass by. “Ailey dancers have to be versatile and technically proficient in many different areas,” says rehearsal director Ronni Favors. Her history with Ailey dates back to 1974, when she began as a student. Since then she has danced as a principal member, collaborated with choreographers, and worked with the man himself during the inaugural season of AileyCamp, which marked one of the legendary choreographer’s last public appearances.

“I always refer to myself as the virus who mutates -- can’t get rid of her,” she laughs. “Viruses are great survivors.” So is the Alvin Ailey legacy. Thanks to the strong direction of artistic director Judith Jamison, the company has stayed true to its creator’s vision. “Alvin always wanted his family from rural Texas to be able to come into the theater and understand what was happening onstage,” Favors explains. Although the troupe will perform works choreographed by Jamison, David Parsons, and Ulysses Dove, and dance to music by Earth, Wind & Fire; Stevie Wonder; and the grandes dames of jazz, one of Ailey’s most demanded works will close every show. “Oh, Revelations. There were times when Alvin tried to put it away, and Judy did as well. Audiences always say, ‘No, no, we came to see Revelations!’ It’s really the jewel in our crown,” says Favors.
March 31-April 2, 8 p.m.


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