The Yale Dance Theater Company is celebrating the legacy of 20th-century dancer and choreographer Alvin Ailey on Saturday with a performance showcase at the Co-op Arts and Humanities High School on College Street.
The show will feature a professionally choreographed production of one of Ailey’s pieces as well as an original Ailey-inspired work choreographed by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Rehearsal Director Matthew Rushing. Eva Albalghiti ’17, a dancer in the ensemble, emphasized that the project has been a personal journey for the performers in addition to being a workshop for technical skills.
“It’s been about exploring ourselves and the community we form together,” Albalghiti said.
Rehearsals and research for the show began in fall 2014, and included a series of blog posts by the members of the company, as well as an interdisciplinary symposium held in February that centered on the political and cultural significance of Alvin Ailey’s choreography and his influence on artists today. According to Holly Taylor ’17 — a current student director of YDT — the intense research and academic components of YDT performances set them apart from most other extra-curricular dance opportunities. Taylor added that Renee Robinson, an AAADT dancer who is staging an excerpt from Ailey’s “Blues Suite” for the performance, placed a large emphasis on human body research during rehearsals.
“She’s helping us individually find what it is inside of us that allows us to dance like Ailey dancers,” Taylor said, explaining that even though the undergraduate YDT members vary in performance style and dance experience, Robinson’s exercises help form the dancers into a cohesive company.
The inclusion of an entirely original performance choreographed by Matthew Rushing is a first for YDT, whose performances usually include excerpts of historical pieces, rather than new content. Taylor said that Rushing’s piece also reflects the multidisciplinary aspect of YDT’s entire project.
The performance will feature live folk music, including an original song co-written by Atissa Ladjevardian ’16 and Moriah Rahamim ’16. According to Taylor, the song focuses on themes of diversity, heritage, love and beauty, adding that each dancer was asked to write a reflection on these themes for the project. Emily Coates ’06 GRD ’11, director of the dance studies curriculum and faculty director of YDT, added that Rushing included some of the messages and stories contributed by the performers in the choreography of the piece and even the lyrics of the original composition. This inclusion of different stories that are normally not told, Taylor added, conjure the unique mode of storytelling seen in Alvin Ailey’s own dances.
“The result is a stunning new work that honors Alvin Ailey’s vision while also pulling it in a new direction — beautifully tailored to the dancers’ personal histories,” Coates said. “With YDT’s 2015 project and Matthew and Renee’s efforts, dance studies at Yale reaches new heights.”