People Helping Each Other

The Magic of Alvin Ailey

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Alicia Graf Mack and Jamar Roberts. Photo by Andrew Eccles
Aids Health Foundation

By Anita Kopacz

I remember sitting on my mother’s lap enchanted by the illustrious Alvin Ailey dancers. The music, the costumes, the set…the soul. My mother’s constant reminder that black is beautiful, was consummated for me over and over the first time I experienced the magic of Alvin Ailey.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater grew from a now-fabled performance in March 1958 at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. Led by Alvin Ailey and a group of young African-American modern dancers, that performance changed forever the perception of American dance. The Ailey company has gone on to perform for an estimated 23 million people at theaters in 48 states and 71 countries on six continents- as well as millions more through television broadcasts. – Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Recently, my mother and I attended the season preview of the 2013-2014 Ailey performances led by the artistic director, Robert Battle. He was personally selected by Judith Jamison, making him only the third person to head the company since it was founded in 1958.

I was particularly struck by the final performance choreographed by Aszure Barton. The piece was said to be inspired and driven by the dancers themselves. There was a collective energy reminiscent of the slave chain-gangs, as a group of male dancers headed the number with eerie staccato movements that matched the percussion of music by Curtis Macdonald. The dance merged into an exotic play of the masculine and feminine, oftentimes striking a most uncomfortable cord within my being. I was truly mesmerized, touched on every level of my soul.

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has stayed true to their legacy. The creative direction, dance, music and overall feel is the definition of fine art. My mother’s adage, black is beautiful, still lingers in my mind as I recall the dancers…the movements…the passion. Alvin Ailey has done it again!

The Company with Artistic Director Robert Battle and Associate Artistic Director Masazumi Chaya. Photo by Andrew Eccles
The Company with Artistic Director Robert Battle and Associate Artistic Director Masazumi Chaya. Photo by Andrew Eccles

Side Show

We asked some of the board members and dancers how they nourish their mind, body and soul. Here’s what they said:

Eleanor Applewhaite
(Board Member since 1973)

Mind: Keep active and do volunteer work.
Body: I go to the gym for cardio. I took dance classes until it was dangerous. I’m really just trying to avoid shrinking.
Soul: I go to church regularly and I believe that you can always find a way to help others within your means. Be generous.

Ghrai DeVore

Mind: Read a lot and do morning crossword puzzles. I have Nook, but I love the feel of a good old fashioned book.
Body: I eat foods that sustain my body: Fruits, veggies, juice and lots of water. I also make sure I get enough sleep.
Soul: I am fed by music, meaningful conversations with friends, talking to my mom everyday…and centering myself if ever I feel my energy is too outward.

Rachael McLaren

Mind: I use meditation to keep my mind together. I get up early and dedicate 30 minutes to practice deep breathing and meditation. I also love to sit in a quiet place and read…a lot!
Body: Doing our dances and same movements over and over, causes my body to go off balance. I do yoga and physical therapy to counter that effect. I also love to swim, it brings in the elements of weightlessness and play into my exercise.
Soul: I wake up everyday grateful. It keeps me in tune with my soul. I am also surrounded by the people that I love, the people that truly want the best for me.

Yannick Lebrun

Mind: I surround myself with great people.  Being from French Guiana, it is important for me to stay connected to my roots by talking to my family and friends back home.
Body: I lift weights, swim and take lots of baths with oils and bath salts.
Soul: I am very spiritual and connected to God. Prayer and meditation calm me down. My soul stays happy with positivity and love.

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