Alvin Ailey dancers Shine in Detroit
By Samantha White
Dance has been defined as "an artistic form of non-verbal communication" and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has been proficient in that language for nearly 60 years.
Using grace and powerful choreography, this esteemed troupe transcends race, culture and religion. With dance numbers that speak to the masses, Detroiters will get an exciting glimpse 3/3-3/6 at the Detroit Opera House.
"To see and experience just how highly this company is revered by so many demographics still leaves me in awe," says principal dancer Demetia Hopkins, celebrating her first season with the company. "It is a privilege and a blessing for me to be here."
The small-town girl from Orange, Va. (pop. 33,000) has been dancing for years under the guidance and mentorship of her uncle, himself a dancer.
"I started dancing when I was 4. I guess at that age it wasn't really my choice to begin dance but since then my uncle has definitely inspired me to keep dancing," Hopkins says.
Judith Jamison has also thrilled audiences with her grace and skill as an Ailey dancer. One of her most memorable pieces was Cry, choreographed for Jamison as a tribute to Ailey's mother on her birthday.
Jamison is now art director for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and after 15 years as a dancer, she continues to impact the arts and dance community in her most recent role.
Last year, Jamison and the company were honored by Vice President Joe Biden for their contribution to the community. One of her costumes from her time as a dancer was donated to the Smithsonian's archives from the piece The Mooche.
Alvin Ailey dance productions are breathtaking and awe-inspiring. It leaves an impression beyond a dancer's toe point or how high they leap. It impacts your soul, which was totally intentional on Ailey's part.
"I believe one of the main reasons this company continues to thrive and is so well recognized is because it is completely relatable," says Hopkins."The works Mr. Ailey originally built this company on were based on his personal experience, his 'blood memories' as he referred to them, and audience members connect with those ballets and the themes they are based on," she adds.
Jamison's passion and humanistic theory for the company have continued and enhanced Ailey's original vision for the show.
"Ms. Jamison has said about Revelations, if you sit and watch that ballet then you know what it's like to be human," says Hopkins.
Hopkins has grown as a dancer since her move from Orange to New York City.
"I was exposed to so much more after moving to the city," she says. "So many styles of dance are right there at your access."
Alvin Ailey Dance Theater is also known for its outreach that teaches and inspires other young dancers like Hopkins, who dream of stardom. They do this through classes at the Ailey Extension that make "dance accessible to everyone."
The dance company will visit Detroit, enlightening audiences with its perspective on African-American and dance culture when it performs at the Detroit Opera House this month. The repertoire includes Revelations, Anointed, Vespers, Three Black Kings, The Hunt, Film, Suite Otis and The Evolution.
Alvin Ailey Dance Theater • 3/3, 7:30 p.m.; 3/4, 7:30 p.m.; 3/5, 2:30 p.m., 7:30 p.m.; 3/6, 2:30 p.m. • Detroit Opera House • 1526 Broadway, Detroit • 313.961.3500 • motopera.org $25-$72