“From his roots as a slave, the American Negro – sometimes sorrowing, sometimes jubilant but always hopeful – has touched, illuminated, and influenced the most remote preserves of world civilization. I and my dance theater celebrate this trembling beauty.”
– Alvin Ailey
Today, we celebrate Juneteenth for the first time as a nation. Much has and will be said about the immense work towards full racial equity and justice in America still to be done; but for today, we can celebrate. To that end, what better way than with Alvin Ailey’s seminal masterpiece, “Revelations.”
The dance piece made its premiere in 1960, three years before MLK’s “March on Washington,” and in it Alvin Ailey captured the soul of Black America. In the age of Jim Crowe and segregation, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater brought their truth to the world in a transcendent and glorious thirty minutes. From their website,
“Using African-American spirituals, song-sermons, gospel songs and holy blues, Alvin Ailey’s Revelations fervently explores the places of deepest grief and holiest joy in the soul.
More than just a popular dance work, it has become a cultural treasure, beloved by generations of fans. Seeing ‘Revelations’ for the first time or the hundredth can be a transcendent experience, with audiences cheering, singing along and dancing in their seats from the opening notes of the plaintive ‘I Been ’Buked’ to the rousing ‘Wade in the Water’ and the triumphant finale, ‘Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham.’”
As the Gay Rights movement took its inspiration from and stands shoulder to shoulder with the Black Civil Rights movement, Alvin Ailey himself stood at the intersection of both as a Black Gay man. His death in 1989 from AIDS was an immeasurable loss to the Black, Gay, and dance communities, as well as humanity itself; but the endure gifts of his choreography and company go on telling the stories and filling the souls of all who see them with joy and hope.
In Celebration of Our First National, Juneteenth
Alvin Ailey’s “Revelations”
Read our past Juneteenth posts by guest contributor Eric Owens