Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Jazz: Perfect Together

May 8, 2017

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater returns to NJPAC for Mother's Day Weekend. Artistic Director Robert Battle, dancer and choreographer Hope Boykin and musical collaborator and percussionist Ali Jackson join host Doug Doyle on the WBGO Journal
Credit alvinailey.org

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will be completing a coast-to-coast tour at NJPAC for performances on Mother’s Day weekend.

It is especially significant that the Company will be performing 3 works (on Friday evening and Sunday matinee) that celebrates the marriage of modern dance and jazz.

A company premiere and a new production that pay homage to two jazz legends on their birth centennials; Artistic Director Robert Battle’s Ella to the scatting of Ella Fitzgerald and Billy Wilson’s The Winter in Lisbon tribute to Dizzy Gillespie.

There's also r-Evolution, Dream. - A world premiere by Ailey dancer Hope Boykin, with original music by Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Ali Jackson.

Boykin says a trip to the Center For Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta inspired the piece.

“It was pretty much a dream come true, as cliché as it sounds. A blessing, and an honor.”

Boykin, who grew up in Durham, North Carolina, says that visit touched her in so many ways.

“The sound of his voice (Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.) changed me that particular day. I was moved to move. I downloaded his speeches, I read a lot of things. But all of a sudden, it sounded like it was something I wanted to create too.”

She joined the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 2000.

“I believe that our generation of artists, and our generation of creators, are really going to make a difference in this world.”

Alvin Ailey Artistic Director Robert Battle and Percussionist and Composer Ali Jackson in the hallways of WBGO
Credit Doug Doyle for WBGO

Robert Battle, Hope Boykin and Ali Jackson joined WBGO News Director Doug Doyle in the studio.

Ali Jackson is considered to be one of the most versatile and innovative musicians of our times.  Collaborating with Hope Boykin was nothing new for him, but this time it was extremely special.  Jackson says he enjoys working with the Ailey company.  His friendship with Boykin goes back many years.

“We look at our responsibility to our art forms, individually and collectively. We would like to embody the future of the collaborative spirit in both of our art forms.”

People all over the world have shown their love and appreciation for the Ailey American Dance Theater.  Artistic Director Robert Battle says he' excited about the Mother's Day weekend shows at NJPAC and their strong connection to jazz.  His piece, Ella, is a fun and humorous dance to the sounds of a scatting Ella Fitzgerald.

"Ella Fitzgerald, who's better than that.  The queen of scat and so much more, someone I've always listened to.  So I've always wanted to choreograph a dance in tribute in a way to my mother who introduced me to jazz legends when I was a kid."

The powerful and elegant Hope Boykin joins WBGO News Director Doug Doyle for an in-depth chat about her amazing career
Credit Doug Doyle for WBGO

Sunday will be a special day for Hope Boykin.  She was born on Mother's Day, and her mother will be in the audience at Prudential Hall for Sunday's performances which will include r-Evolution Dream, Ella, Winter in Lisbon (music by Duke Ellington) and Revelations.

Friday's works will be the same as Sunday's.  Saturday's dances are Exodus, After The Rain Pas de Deux, Untitled America and Revelations.