It is always exciting when the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater tours to Los Angeles. This season Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at the Music Center announced that the company will present three separate programs: Program A (New Works) includes Aszure Barton’s BUSK and the West Coast premiere of Jamar Roberts’ acclaimed new work, Ode; Program B (Trailblazers) features Lazarus, a two-act work by Rennie Harris that received its riveting West Coast premiere at The Music Center in April 2019; and Program C (Family Friendly) includes the West Coast premiere of Darrell Grand Moultrie’s Ounce of Faith as well as Jessica Lang’s EN. The Ailey will perform March 18 – 22, 2020.

Previous to the company’s season at the Music Center, for four days, March 3-6 the Company will teach sections from Alvin Ailey’s iconic work Revelations to students at Humphreys Elementary School, and present the West Coast premieres of two new works Ode and Ounce of Faith during their run at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Matthew Rushing - Photo by Andrew Eccles

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Matthew Rushing – Photo by Andrew Eccles

It is also notable that two members of the Ailey Company grew up and received their early dance training right here in the Los Angeles area, proving again that California has long been, and continues to be, the training ground for professional dancers.

Matthew Rushing began his training in Inglewood at the Los Angeles County High School of the Arts (LACHSA). A 30-year veteran of the Ailey Company, in 2010 Rushing became Rehearsal Director for the company and most recently, in 2020 it was announced that Rushing would be the new Associate Artistic Director under Robert Battle. Long considered one of America’s great male modern dancers, Rushing is a Music Center Spotlight finalist and a recipient of a Dance Magazine Award. His work Moan was commissioned by Philadelphia based Philadanco, and he has created three works for the Ailey Company, Acceptance In Surrender (2005), a collaboration with Hope Boykin and Abdur-Rahim Jackson; Uptown (2009), a tribute to the Harlem Renaissance; and ODETTA (2014), a celebration of “the queen of American folk music.”

Raised in Huntington Beach, California, Danica Paulos joined the Ailey Company in 2014. Paulos is the company’s staff photographer and if you wish to view her gorgeous work, you may do so why clicking on Ailey’s Instagram page and Paulos’ Instragram page.  Paulos is not the first dancer to demonstrate a talent for photography, and perhaps it is not surprising as both genres express situations or emotions without the aid of the spoken word. Paulos recently announced that she will be leaving the company following the 2019/2020 season, so this may be our last time to see her perform in Los Angeles. Hopefully not.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Danica Paulos in Ronald K. Brown's "The Call" - Photo by Paul Kolnik

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Danica Paulos in Ronald K. Brown’s “The Call” – Photo by Paul Kolnik

One of the two works making their premiere on the West Coast is Ode choreographed by Ailey Company member Jamar Roberts (2002-present). Set to Don Pullen’s 1975 Jazz solo piano improvisation “Suite (Sweet) Malcolm (Part 1 Memories and Gunshots)”, Ode has a cast of six dancers and is described as a reaction to the ever-increasing gun violence in America. As with many art forms, Roberts is using dance to help teach, not only those directly affected by this senseless violence, but he hopes to show the nation the path toward healing. Roberts work had its premiere in New York City to critical acclaim. The New York Times listed Ode as a Critic’s Pick, it review lead reading “A Dance About Gun Violence? ‘Ode’ Is Daring and Delicate.” In that same article journalist Brian Seibert wrote “He clearly has things to say and a fresh way of saying them”.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Jamar Roberts' "Ode" - Photo by Paul Kolnik

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Jamar Roberts’ “Ode” – Photo by Paul Kolnik

Ounce of Faith, choreographed by Darrell Grand Moultrie, features twelve dancers and set to an original score by Grammy-nominee Chuck Harmony. Moultrie has created works pop icon Beyoncé and the renown tap dancer Savion Glover, as well as for ballet companies around the country. Using a mix of jazz standards, original music, and spoken word, Ounce of Faith conveys an inspirational message that demonstrates how an excellent and caring teacher has a lasting effect on the futures of her or his students

For many years, one of the focal points for The Music Center and for the Ailey Company has been their community outreach and arts education. From March 3-6, members of the company will instruct students at Humphreys Elementary School near East LA about Alvin Ailey’s legacy. These fortunate 5th graders learn also have an opportunity to learn and perform sections of Alvin Ailey’s masterwork, Revelations. Their arts education continues with a free matinee performance by the Ailey Company at the Music Center The residency will be taught by former company dancer and a master teacher Nasha Thomas, the company’s national director of Ailey Camp.

If at all possible, do not miss seeing this American dance treasure.

Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle, March 2, 2020.

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Festival performs at the Music Center’s Dorothy Pavilion March 18 – 22, 2020. For more information and tickets, click here.

To visit the Alvin Ailey American Dance Festival website, click here.

To learn more about the Dance at the Music Center’s 2019-2020 season, click here.

Featured image: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Aszure Barton’s Busk – Photo by Paul Kolnik