JU­DITH JAMI­SON

Newsweek International - - POLITICS -

One of the most beau­ti­ful things about art—and dance specif­i­cally—is that it brings peo­ple from all back­grounds, races and re­li­gions to­gether. Alvin Ai­ley said, “Dance came to the peo­ple and should be given back to the peo­ple.” Ai­ley gave us works of time­less­ness and en­ergy that hit you at a core level, in your soul, no mat­ter where you’re com­ing from in the world, what lan­guage you speak or what po­lit­i­cal party you are with. At a time where there’s so much ten­sion sur­round­ing race, gen­der and pol­i­tics, it’s im­por­tant to have places where peo­ple can feel united in an ex­pe­ri­ence that might not be their own. Peo­ple who did not grow up un­der­stand­ing African-amer­i­can hymns, rit­u­als and bap­tisms, or what it meant to grow up in the South, can see a com­pletely dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive. And for those who lived that his­tory, it’s a full-cir­cle mo­ment.

In 1960, Ai­ley cre­ated a piece called “Rev­e­la­tions,” which the com­pany has con­tin­ued to per­form ever since. It’s based on his blood mem­o­ries, of grow­ing up in the seg­re­gated South. At that time, the church was the hall­mark of civ­i­liza­tion for black peo­ple. The chore­og­ra­phy in “Rev­e­la­tions” shows our hu­man­ity, that we are hu­man, that we ex­pe­ri­ence joy and pain. It’s tri­umphant too—no mat­ter what you throw at African-amer­i­cans, we tackle it. We per­se­vere. And that is a story ev­ery­body can re­late to.

JAMI­SON is a dancer and chore­og­ra­pher who was di­rec­tor (1989 to 2011) and is now artis­tic di­rec­tor emerita of the Alvin Ai­ley Amer­i­can Dance The­ater, which cel­e­brated its 60th an­niver­sary in 2018.

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