The Daily Tar Heel

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Tuesday December 6th

Alvin Ailey dance group returns to Memorial Hall

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will host its annual performances this week at Memorial Hall. And once again, both shows are sold out of student tickets.

The company was founded in 1958 by Alvin Ailey who, along with other African American dancers, sought to celebrate African-American dancing and its influences. 

“The company is wildly popular amongst our patrons and draws an emotional response with each piece they perform,” said Darah Whyte, Carolina Performing Arts’ spokesperson.

The company has been coming to Chapel Hill since CPA’s 2006 to 2007 season, and is not only a favorite for Chapel Hill — Chapel Hill is a favorite for the company. The company has performed for an estimated 25 million people at theaters in 48 states and 71 countries on six continents, as well as millions more through television broadcasts.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is considered a repertory company, which means it is creating new work and ballets by a variety of choreographers constantly.

“I think that’s why our audiences continue to come back — because there’s always something new to experience when they see an Alvin Ailey performance,” said the show's lighting director Al Crawford, who is originally from North Carolina. 

Shortly before his death in 1989, Ailey turned the ropes over to Judith Jamison. Jamison ran the company for 21 years, and then in 2011, named Robert Battle her successor. 

Audience members at the shows this week can expect to see a piece titled "Awakening," the first piece Battle's directed since he took the position.

Battle also handpicks the dancers for the shows. Each dancer has unique backgrounds and diverse experiences.

“I think that’s something that Alvin really brought to the spirit of the company when he first established it, and it’s something still being seen today,” Crawford said.

Crawford, who has been lighting director for 18 years, said he first saw the group when he was 14 and was amazed by the level of aesthetic, focus and dedication dancers brought to their craft and the production values of that show. 

Crawford said Ailey’s 1960 signature work, "Revelations," has been seen more than any other modern dance piece around the world. 

“For many people, it’s why they come to see Alvin Ailey, and both performances in Chapel Hill will end with the piece,” Crawford said.

UNC students, especially those in the dance community, are excited for the performances happening this week.

Abigail Parlier, a junior who is part of Star Heels, said she is enthusiastic to see a company of Alvin Ailey’s caliber performing on the same stage as her dance group. 

“It’s one of those things that you have to go see especially as a dancer or just somebody that appreciates the art,” said Parlier, who will be seeing the company for the first time Wednesday.

Senior, Joy McDowell will also be seeing the company for the first time this week. She said she didn’t want to miss the chance to see such a talented and historic company, especially with student tickets being as low as $10. 

“I just love black art — black culture in general," McDowell said. "I never want to miss an opportunity to miss any type of culture by African Americans, especially one as prominent as Alvin Ailey."


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