Ailey’s Opening Night Gala Honors Living Legend Judith Jamison

Photos: Alvin Ailey

On November 29, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater kicked off its 65th anniversary season at a star-studded Opening Night Gala complete with a rousing performance and party. Honorary Chairs for the evening were Tony®, Emmy®, and GRAMMY® Award-winning and Oscar-nominated actress, singer, author, and producer Cynthia Erivo and 3x Emmy® Award-winning co-host of ABC’s “The View” and 2x New York Times best-selling author Sunny Hostin.

This year’s gala honored beloved trailblazer and iconic Artistic Director Emerita Judith Jamison in her 80th year. The celebration paid tribute to her legendary career as a groundbreaking dancer, choreographer, and visionary leader who has left an indelible mark on Ailey, the greater dance community, and American culture.

The one-night-only performance began with A Tribute and Celebration for Judith Jamison, a creation by two other extraordinary women who were inspired by this beloved legend – the acclaimed choreographer and former Ailey dancer Hope Boykin along with Cynthia Erivo, an artist who has touched the hearts of millions on stage, screen, and the recording world.  This spectacular pièce d ’occasion – a love letter to Judith Jamison in her 80th year evoking her artistry, strength, and transformative role in Ailey’s history – featured the Ailey dancers moving to live renditions of “Feeling Good” and “Both Sides Now” interpreted by vocal powerhouse Cynthia Erivo. As a  birthday present to Ms. Jamison, Elaine P. Wynn & Family Foundation provided generous support for the new work.

“To be able to honor a legendary woman, thought leader, and mentor in a celebration was more of a gift to me,” stated choreographer Hope Boykin. “I wanted her to know, see, and feel my love.”

The performance culminated with the inspiring finale of Alvin Ailey’s signature masterpiece Revelations featuring an unforgettable score of spirituals sung live by a soul-stirring choir.

Afterwards the festivities continued at the iconic Ziegfeld Ballroom where 600 guests from the worlds of entertainment, business, philanthropy, and politics gathered for dinner and dancing with live music by premier band Élan Artists. Special guests in attendance included Chef Maya-Camille Broussard, Dario Calmese, Tremaine Emory, Jillian Hervey, André Holland, LaChanze, Bianca Lawson, Damaris Lewis, Alicia Graf Mack, Olga Merediz, Marcus Samuelsson, Bevy Smith, Lorraine Toussaint, Lena Waithe, and Damian Woetzel.

The gala co-chairs were Emily & Len Blavatnik, Raina & Jack Pitts, Dr. Danielle Robinson & Reverend Dwayne McClary, Daria L. & Eric J. Wallach, Joan & Sandy Weill, Elaine Wynn and Pamela D. Zilly & John H. Schaefer; vice chairs are Jill & Gunther Bright, Anthony S. Kendall, Anthony A. Lewis, and Leslie & Tom Maheras. $2.5 million was raised in support of the creation of new works, scholarships to The Ailey School, and Ailey’s education programs for children.

The five-week holiday engagement continues through New Year’s Eve and features the world premieres of CENTURY by Ailey’s first ever Artist-in-Residence Amy Hall Garner and Me, Myself and You by former Ailey Dancer Elizabeth Roxas-Dobrish; as well as new productions of Ronald K. Brown’s Dancing Spirit, Jamar Roberts’ Ode, Alonzo King’s Following the Subtle Current Upstream and Hans van Manen’s Solo. Throughout the season audiences will also be treated to a variety of special programs including ‘Pioneering Women of Ailey’ celebrating Ailey’s leading ladies Carmen de Lavallade, Judith Jamison, Denise Jefferson and Sylvia Waters;  ‘Ailey & Jazz’ with live music; and a variety of returning favorites including Alvin Ailey’s must-see masterpiece Revelations. This year all are invited to join in the dance with Ailey Extension on Saturday, December 2nd at 3:30pm during Revelations Around the World – a free online global celebration where people from all over the world come together to learn the steps of this beloved American classic.

The Company will continue to inspire audiences from coast to coast on a National Tour to over 20 cities from January – May 2024. For information on how to experience the magic of Ailey, visit www.alvinailey.org. 

UPCOMING PERFORMANCE HIGHLIGHTS INCLUDE:
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 1: DANCING SPIRIT – NEW PRODUCTION
On Friday, December 1 at 8pm Ailey reveals a new production of Ronald K. Brown’s Dancing Spirit – a tribute to Judith Jamison’s profound influence with a moving work that echoes the title of Jamison’s autobiography. Set to music by Duke Ellington, Wynton Marsalis, and War, Brown’s evocative choreography uses movement from Cuba, Brazil, and the United States to conjure dancing spirits who embody Jamison’s elegance, dignity, and generosity.

Performance Dates: Dec. 1 eve, Dec. 3 mat, Dec. 6 eve, Dec. 13 eve, Dec. 21 eve, Dec. 23 eve, Dec. 27 eve, Dec. 29 eve

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 1: ODE – NEW PRODUCTION
On Friday, December 1 at 8pm witness a new production of Ode from former Ailey dancer Jamar Roberts. Ode offers a meditation on the beauty and fragility of life in a time of growing gun violence. Set on six dancers, this tender, engrossing work will be staged with an all-female cast and features a jazz score—Don Pullen’s “Suite (Sweet) Malcolm (Part 1 Memories and Gunshots)”—and Roberts’s own costume designs.

Performance Dates: Dec. 1 eve, Dec. 3 mat, Dec. 16 eve, Dec. 20 eve, Dec 22 eve, Dec 26 eve, Dec. 29 eve

REVELATIONS with LIVE MUSIC
Throughout opening weekend, experience Alvin Ailey’s masterpiece Revelations with live music. More than just a popular dance work, Revelations has become a cultural treasure, beloved by generations of fans and acclaimed as a must-see for all. Using African American spirituals, the work fervently explores the places of deepest grief and holiest joy in the soul.

Performance Dates: Nov. 29 eve, Dec. 1 eve, Dec. 2 mat, Dec 2 eve, Dec. 3 mat

FAMILY MATINEE SERIES
Each Saturday afternoon in December, bring the whole family to enjoy the performance and stay for a Q & A with Ailey dancers in the theater following the inspiring finale of Revelations, acclaimed as a must-see for all ages. On Saturday, December 2 the American Express® Family Matinee Series kicks off with an invitation to commemorate the memorable moment with friends and family at a photo booth starting at 1pm, as well as a post-performance Q&A with Ailey dancers moderated by pioneer of Broadway social media, Felicia Fitzpatrick and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Rehearsal Director Ronni Favors. Photos provided on a first come, first serve basis. Not everyone who wishes to have a photo may have the opportunity.

Performance Dates: Dec. 2 mat, Dec. 9 mat, Dec. 16 mat, Dec. 23 mat, Dec. 30 mat

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 2 AT 2PM: AILEY CLASSICS
This special two-act Ailey Classics program is comprised of excerpts from some of Alvin Ailey’s beloved  ballets including Memoria, Night Creature, Pas de Duke, Masekela Langage, Opus McShann, Love Songs, Refelections in D, and For ‘Bird’ – With Love.  In Act 1 Memoria honors the life of a cherished friend and Night Creature fuses Ailey’s buoyant choreography with Duke Ellington’s sparkling music. Act II features the strong yet serene solo Reflections in D along with highlights from the spirited duet Pas de Duke, the commanding choreography in Masekela Langage, the comical meandering of Opus McShann, the lyrical solo from Love Songs, and the magical Charlie Parker tribute For ‘Bird’ – with Love.

Performance Dates: Dec. 2 mat, Dec. 5 eve, Dec. 10 eve, Dec. 23 mat, Dec. 27 mat

SPECIAL WORKSHOPS AT AILEY

FREE REVELATIONS AROUND THE WORLD WORKSHOP

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 2 AT 3:30PM | Online Only

Join Ailey Extension director and Company alumna, Lisa Johnson-Willingham when students from all over the world come together to learn excerpts of choreography from Ailey’s signature masterpiece, Revelations online for free. Since its premiere in 1960, Alvin Ailey’s Revelations has been a lasting cultural treasure beloved by people from around the world. Using African American spirituals, song-sermons, gospel songs, and holy blues, Ailey’s timeless masterpiece fervently explores the places of deepest grief and holiest joy in the soul. This enduring classic is a tribute to that tradition, born out of the choreographer’s “blood memories” of his childhood in rural Texas and the Baptist Church. Revelations has been performed continuously around the globe, transcending barriers of faith and nationality, and appealing to universal emotions, making it one of the most recognized ballets in the world.

AILEY CLASSICS WORKSHOP

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 10 AT 3:30PM | The Ailey Studios and Online

Join world-renowned dancer, former Ailey Company member, and Ailey Extension instructor, Sarita Allen for a special workshop learning excerpts of choreography from iconic Alvin Ailey’s Night Creature, Masekela Langage, and Revelations. Ms. Allen was a leading member of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and one of the original dancers in Night Creature, chosen by Alvin Ailey himself to perform the lead role.

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