Performing Arts Curriculum for Alvin Ailey’s Revelations



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Performing Arts Curriculum for Alvin Ailey’s Revelations

2011




Though Ailey created 79 works for his dancers, he maintained that his company was not merely a showcase for his own work. Today, the company continues Ailey's vision by performing important works from the past and commissioning new additions to the repertoire. In all, more than 200 works by over 70 choreographers have been performed by the company. His company now has the third director since its inception and has inspired many former Ailey dancers to create their own companies.
Themes: Creative process and personal inspiration, performance basics, inspiration artistic vision, cultural legacy, history of modern dance

VOCABULARY

  • Creative process

  • Self expression

  • Choreography

  • Aesthetics

  • Criticism

  • Master works

  • Non verbal communication

  • Modern Dance (historic timeline from Free to Dance)

  • Contemporary dance

  • African dance

  • Lester Horton

  • Katherine Dunham

  • Martha Graham

  • Pearl Primus

  • Judith Jamison

  • Robert Battles

  • Complexions Dance Company (2009) White Bird Curriculum

INQUIRY QUESTIONS



  1. How does personal experience influence artistic vision and creation?

  2. How is emotion expressed without words?

  3. What and who inspired Alvin Ailey to create Revelations?

  4. How has the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre impacted the legacy of modern dance?

CONNECTIONS

Find connections between the history of modern dance, contemporary dance and African dance.
The Ailey Legacy

from TRANSCENDING: A students’ guide to Alvin Ailey 2001 curriculum

written by Frederic W. Lock, Jr.
As a black modern dancer and artistic director, Alvin Ailey pioneered lasting change that would be carried forward by those who loved him and shared his passion. Artistic Director Judith Jamison was chosen by Alvin to lead the company shortly before his death. An extremely accomplished artist and choreographer, she has taken the company to soaring heights that clearly would make Alvin proud. Alvin, her “spiritual walker” inspired her to continue the tradition of artistic excellence that is the signature of the Ailey Company and School. As Miss Jamison imparted at Alvin’s funeral in The Cathedral of St. John the Devine “Alvin gave me legs until I could stand on my own as a dancer and a choreographer.” “He made us believe we could fly.....He gave me wings, I sat on his wings and would fly.”

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is still flying. Under Jamison’s direction, the company has continued to develop new works by emerging choreographers, including a Women’s Choreography Initiative. The company’s varied repertoire includes works by Jamison, Tallley Beatty, Donald Byrd, John Butler, Ulysses Dove, Katherine Dunham, Lar Lubovitch, Donald McKayle, Elisa Monte, Jennifer Muller, Pearl Primus, Brenda Way, Billy Wilson, director Judith Jamison and many others.

To appreciate the wealth of Ailey’s contribution to American dance, it is important to understand other areas his work influenced both directly and otherwise. Alvin wanted a company that could do everything, and was particularly committed to providing opportunities for black dancers, in an interracial setting.

As Clive Barnes writes: “Ailey is black and proud of it. But, he understands that the African culture is as much part of American life as European culture. He is no black apostle of apartheid, and I love him for it. Today his non-black dancers can keep up in his company’s idiom, which, for the most part, is Afro-American. As a result--and I wouldn’t stress this but rather take it as it comes: Every performance he gives is the greatest lesson in race relations you are going to get in a month of Sundays.”

Looking at Dance


prepared by Frederic W. Locke, 2001 Student guide to Alvin Ailey

Part II (pg 23); Understanding the Choreographic Process


Choreographer: A person who composes or creates dances.
Choreography: The dance composition, ballet, work, or piece that a choreographer creates.
Unison movement: When a group of dancers dance the same material at the same time. The strength of ensemble or corps work is in the ability of the group to dance as “one.”
Ensemble: The unison movement of a group of dancers.
Solo: The performance of a single person.
Duet (Pas de Deux): When two dancers perform together.
Juxtaposition: When singular movement phrases are performed by different dancers simultaneously.
Repertoire: The list of works that a company is prepared to perform.
Repertory Company: A dance company that performs many types of works by many different choreographers.
Part III: Dance Styles Studied and Performed by the Alvin Ailey Company
Modern Dance - focuses on combining dynamic movement expressing the beauty and strength of human bodies, diverse personalities and intense emotion. This creates exhilarating, organic movement including deep contractions, or curves and sharp angles.
Horton Technique --created by Lester Horton, this modern dance technique explores how many different ways the body can move. He names these movements “Studies.” Some of the studies are for balance, some are to fortify (strengthen) and some are to work on the swinging action of the body. In the Horton technique, the dancer tried to use as much space as possible; turning, bending and jumping sideways, backward and even upside down. The shapes created are clear and linear. The quality of the movement is lyrical and includes varied dynamics. The Horton technique gives a feeling of strength and energy.
Dunham Technique -- created by Katherine Dunham; the Dunham technique is a blend of the Caribbean, West African and Afro-American folk patterns of movement and rhythms. The technique has been devised to encompass the movements of the indigenous folk patterns of these cultures. The original dance patterns have been preserved. But the dances have been slightly altered in order to be more acceptable, choreographically speaking, to the modern dance concert and theater. The technique also employs the mediums of ballet, modern dance forms, jazz and basic folk patterns.
Graham Technique -- created by Martha Graham; This technique is based on the principle of contraction and release, movement which is similar to the act of breathing, creating a current of energy through the body; back appears rounded in a contraction and the chest is lifted in a release; movement itself is dramatic and expressive.
Classical Ballet – This dance form started in the royal courts of Europe; the body is held mostly upright and the legs are turned out from the hip; uses five basic positions of the feet; uses French as its language.

PERFORMING ARTS STANDARDS:


http://artsedge.kennedy-center.org/educators/standards/full-text/9-12%20Standards%20by%20Arts%20Subject.aspx

Moderndance - Wikipedia, thefreeencyclopedia


This is a good beginning overview of modern dance. It includes names in the vocabulary list which will lead you to further studies of individual contributions to modern dance history.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modern_dance
Link to African Dance

http://artsedge.kennedy-center.org/aoi/dance/artsedge. ... Students will explore traditional West African dance, specifically, Senegalese Harvest Dance. ...

code.on.ca/resource/african-dance-focus-course-profile
AFRICAN DANCE

LINK: http://dance.lovetoknow.com/History_of_African_Dance
From the earliest history of African dance, it is known that dance played a very important role in the lives of the tribal people. Dances were used to ward off danger and to ask for prosperity, to express feelings and emotions and to celebrate ceremonies such as birth or marriage. It also played a major role in tribal religious rituals. As a part of the daily activities, dancing was a way to pass time and to enjoy and affirm life.

One of the main differences between African dance and dances from other parts of the world is that African dance is polycentric. This means that the dancer's body is not treated as one single central unit. Instead, it is divided into several centers, or segmented areas, of movement with each area being able to move to different rhythms within the music.

In most other areas of the world the dancer's body moves as a whole throughout the dance. In African dance, the different centers of the dancer's body creates complex movements that move in conjunction with one another. Examples of the different centers of a dancer's body include:


  • Shoulder

  • Arms

  • Chest

  • Pelvis

  • Legs

The Importance of the Drum in African Dance


As dancers move in an expression of their inner feelings, their movements are generally in rhythm to the drumbeat. It is the sound of the drum and the rhythms that are played that provide the heartbeat of the dance. In African dance, the drum helps to set the mood and brings everyone together as a community.

African Dance and Slave Trade


The 1500s saw the beginning of slave labor as Africans were brought to North and South America and the Caribbean. Hundreds of different African dance styles, from various ethnic groups were merged together, along with styles of European dancing. Because of the importance of dance in the daily life of Africans in their homeland, many Africans that were enslaved continued to use dance as a way to keep their cultural traditions and connect with their country.

Enslaved Africans that were taken to colonies in South America, the Caribbean, Spain and Portugal were given much more freedom to carry on their dance traditions than those that were brought to North America. Sadly, many of the North American slave owners prohibited Africans from performing most of their traditional dances.


African Dance in North America during the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries


Throughout the eighteenth century there were several dances that dominated the era. These dances included:

  • The Ring Dance, also called the Ring Shout

  • The Juba

  • The Chica

  • The Calenda

The nineteenth century saw the plantation dances move onto the stage as Minstrel shows became popular. During these shows, which were performed by both black and white performers, dances which were based on African cultural heritage were introduced to large numbers of people.

As the century grew to an end, a dance called the Cakewalk was introduced in The Creole Show, which was a Broadway revue. This African influenced dance was the first to become popular with white audiences. From 1891 on, there were many African influenced dances that became popular in the years to follow.


The History of African Dance - Then and Now


Over the centuries, as Western culture spread throughout Africa, most of the traditional African dances have disappeared. The few that have survived are found in Burkina Faso and Cote d"Ivoire. But the culture and traditions of African dance survive throughout the world as it lives on in the many African influenced dances of today.


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