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Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
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Alvin Ailey Groundbreaking Ceremony - Article by Roberta Zlokower

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 9, 2002
New York, NY

Featured Dance Company:

Alvin Ailey Dance Theater
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
405 West 55th Street
New York, NY 10019
(212) 405-9000

About the Author:


Alvin Ailey Dance Theater
The Ailey School
Ailey II
Ailey Arts in Education & Community Outreach

Alvin Ailey - Founder
Judith Jamison - Artistic Director
Masazumi Chaya - Associate Artistic Director
Sharon Gersten Luckman —Executive Director
Beth Olsen - Public Relations
Cohn Davis Associates—Publicity

Review by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower, October 9, 2002

New Alvin Ailey Dance Theater Site, 55th Street and Ninth Avenue, NYC.

On October 9, 2002, I had the unique pleasure of attending the Groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the new Alvin Ailey Dance Theater. Alvin Ailey was a long-time hero for me, as he had taught a Modern Dance Master Class, when I was an undergraduate at Skidmore College. He had a strong impact on my passion for dance, and for many, many years I have been part of the loyal audience at City Center (www.citycenter.org), for the Holiday Season of the Ailey Dance Company.

Another hero has been Judith Jamison, who was appointed as Artistic Director in 1989, after the death of Alvin Ailey, who was her mentor. Ms. Jamison had been an extraordinarily talented soloist in the Ailey Company and is now an extraordinarily talented Artistic Director, Master Teacher, Choreographer, Lecturer, and Author. Her autobiography, Dancing Spirit, was published in 1993. In 1999, Ms. Jamison received the Kennedy Center Honor for her lifetime contributions to American culture.

Leading today's events was a most amazing parade of students and dancers from the Ailey School, dressed all in white, with white umbrellas, marching down Ninth Avenue, to the pulsating sounds of their signature dance, Revelations. Surprised bystanders, shop owners, and West Side drivers were treated to the best of the culture of NYC, as this dance in white swayed down the Avenue to greet the numerous Press officials and NYC dignitaries. Judith Jamison and her Executive and Public Relations Committee were noticeably moved by the day's momentous events.

The Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation broke ground for this new structure, to be completed in two years, named the Joan Weill Center for Dance. The 77,000 square foot, $54 million building is part of a $66 million capital and endowment campaign. Joan and Sandy Weill have already provided a leadership gift of $15 million. This Center will be the largest dance facility in the United States.

Renderings of Ailey's new home courtesy of Darin Gregory Reynolds/Iu Bibliowicz Architects

Speaking at today's event were Ms. Jamison, Sharon Gersten Luckman, Executive Director, Joan Weill, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, and NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Ms. Jamison said, "This grand new building will pay tribute to the boundless spirit of Alvin Ailey. His legacy, his dedication to the art of dance and his commitment to the future will live on in these extraordinary surroundings." She also told the audience, "You have honored Alvin Ailey's legacy." Mayor Bloomberg commented, "There is no reason why New York City should not be the dance capital of the world."

The three dances performed for this most unusual ceremony, before an audience of esteemed Corporate Officers, Press Officials, City Legislators, Ailey students, and other invited guests, were in true Ailey fashion, with vibrantly colored costumes and highly energetic and muscular dancing. Troy Powell choreographed Breaking Ground in honor of today's ceremony. Students from the Ailey School's Junior Division catapulted and leaped to jazz music by Max Roach in vibrantly colored costumes. The Winter in Lisbon (1992) was excerpted, choreography by Billy Wilson and music by Dizzy Gillespie. Company members used signature hats as props in a most muscular and emotionally charged tour de force. The final excerpt, from Revelations (1960), with Ailey's original choreography, his most famous piece, used the gospel, Rocka My Soul from the Bosom of Abraham. The Company, in splendid yellow, with fans and wide-brimmed hats, rocked the esteemed audience to a noticeable level of excitement and drama. Clapping and cheering ensued.

The final moments of drama included the breaking of ground, traditional ceremony, with silver shovels and soil that was covered with gold glitter. Board members and Ms. Jamison mugged for the Press, with dust and glitter flying through the air. In their stage farewell, Ms.Jamison, Company Executives, Board Members, and Ailey Students and Company were treated to a burst of large gold confetti, pouring down from the roof, in a dynamic and dramatic display of togetherness and touching celebration.

Stepping to a Joyous Noise

Photos by Roberta Zlokower

Judith Jamison exuberantly joins her Ailey students and Company on route to the historic groundbreaking.

The Ailey students form a sea of white, "Revelations" style, with flowing umbrellas, and dance down 9th Avenue.

9th Avenue becomes a surprise stage for traffic and bystanders.

Judith Jamison, students, and Company greet the press and the public.

Judith Jamison, Mayor Bloomberg, and Joan Weill

Ailey students perform "Breaking Ground", choreographed in honor of today's ceremony.

Joan Weill invites the audience to return in 2004 to view the new Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg says "There is no reason why NYC should not be the dance capital of the world."

Ailey Board, Mayor Bloomberg and Ms. Jamison break ground, sprinkled with glitter.

The Ailey Company perform "The Winter in Lisbon".

The Ailey Company perform "Revelations".

Ms. Jamison, Ailey students and Company, and Board members bid goodbye, amidst glittering gold from the roof.

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