CULTURE

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is back in Greek capital

wo years after their successful appearances in Athens and Thessaloniki, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater returns to Greece with a renewed body of works. Following last night’s premiere, the troupe performs tonight, tomorrow and Friday at the Lycabettus Theater. The performances are under the auspices of the American ambassador to Greece, Thomas Miller. It was back on March 30, 1958, when Alvin Ailey and his troupe of African-American contemporary dancers took the stage at the «Young Men’s Hebrew Association» – changing the American dance landscape for ever. Since then, the company has performed in front of 19 million people in 68 countries all over the world. During this time, the troupe has also spent two periods working and teaching in South African institutions, while some of its landmark performances included those in Leningrad and Moscow in 1970 – the former receiving a 20-minute ovation. Texas Ailey was born in Rogers, Texas, in 1931. His father abandoned his 17-year-old mother when Alvin was 6 months old. Eventually settling in Los Angeles, mother and son picked cotton and did domestic work. On a junior high school trip to see the Ballet Russe of Monte Carlo, young Alvin discovered dance. He began lessons with choreographer Katherine Dunham and went on to become a pupil of choreographer Lester Horton. Leading a racially mixed troupe (which included working on Indian and Japanese ideas), Horton’s influence on Ailey was fundamental, forcing him to abandon his studies at UCLA and dedicate himself to dance. Following Ailey’s stage debut in 1953, Horton died and Ailey took over the company. New York Ailey also made it to Broadway in 1954, in Truman Capote’s «House of Flowers.» Following the performances, Ailey remained in New York to broaden his education. He studied with choreographer Martha Graham and over the next decade went on working as a dancer, choreographer, actor and director. At the time the rising Afro-American star was working on a variety of projects, yet it was his «Blues Suite» choreography in 1958 which marked the beginning of critical and financial success – as well as the establishment of the Alvin Ailey Dance Company. In creating his own dance troupe, Ailey brought in his philosophy advocating development of the whole person, not just the dancer (beyond the realm of professional dance, for instance, this American pioneer developed AileyCamps, targeting youths at risk, featuring six-week stays involving dance instruction, but also classes in creative communication and personal development). Gradually, what began as a mostly black American company developed into a large multiracial troupe reflecting American society’s evolution. The world As the troupe increasingly gained critical acclaim and world fans, Ailey gave up his career as a dancer in order to concentrate exclusively on choreography and running the company. A resident company of the Brooklyn Academy of Music for three seasons beginning in 1969, Ailey’s troupe was also the first American one to perform in the Soviet Union in 50 years. The company has received numerous awards over the years, including the prestigious Capezio Award in 1979, the Samuel H. Scripps American Dance Festival Award in 1987 and the Kennedy Center Honors in 1988. Following Ailey’s death in 1989, principal dancer Judith Jamison took over as the company’s artistic director. During her tenure, Jamison has taken the troupe all over the world, while carrying on with Ailey’s pioneering work. Last February, for instance, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater presented «Here… Now,» based on a choreography by Jamison and music by Wynton Marsalis. The occasion was the opening ceremonies of the Salt Lake Cultural Olympics, based on the life of the late Olympics sensation Florence Griffith Joyner. In this touching production, Jamison brought together dance, sports and the arts, in a homage to the great American athlete who passed away at the age of 38. Athens In Athens, the Alvin Ailey company is presenting «Serving Nia,» «The Winter in Lisbon» and «Treading,» ending with the celebrated «Revelations.» Choreographed by Ailey when he was just 29 years old, «Revelations» represents the spirit of southern black Americans during the depression. The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at the Lycabettus Theater. Performances tonight, tomorrow and Friday at 9 p.m. For ticket information log on to the website www.ticketsoftware.gr. For additional information and ticket reservations contact 210.723.4567.