On March 30, 1958, a troupe of black dancers performed as the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater for the first time, at the 92nd Street YM-YWHA Dance Center, traveling around in station wagons. Now AAADT’s sixtieth anniversary tour pulls up to City Center for the company’s annual monthlong residence, this year running November 28 to December 30. The season, known as “Ailey Ascending,” features new and old works, looking back at the troupe’s glorious history and exciting future. Under the leadership of artistic director Robert Battle, thirty-two dancers, including longtime favorites Hope Boykin, Clifton Brown, Vernard J. Gilmore, Daniel Harder, Rachael McLaren, Akua Noni Parker, Jamar Roberts, and the incomparable Glen Allen Sims and Linda Celeste Sims, will be presenting the world premiere of Ronald K. Brown’s The Call, which Brown refers to as a “love letter to Mr. Ailey,” with music by Johann Sebastian Bach (performed by Chris Thile, Edgar Meyere, and Yo-Yo Ma), Mary Lou Williams, and Asase Yaa; Rennie Harris’s Lazarus, the first two-part AAADT ballet, by AAADT’s first artist-in-residence, dealing with racism and Ailey’s legacy from 1958 to today, set to music by Nina Simone, Terrence Trent D’Arby, Michael Kiwanuka, Odetta, and Darrin Ross, along with the voice of Alvin Ailey; and EN by Jessica Lang (who just announced that Jessica Lang Dance is in its final season, closing on April 30, 2019), her hundredth ballet, with original music by Jakub Ciupinski. There will also be the company premiere of Wayne McGregor’s Kairos, set to Antonio Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons” reimagined by Max Richter and with set design by Idris Khan. New productions consist of Battle’s Juba and former artistic director Judith Jamison’s Divining and Forgotten Time.
Among the special programs are “All Ailey” (Memoria, Masekela Langage, Revelations; Night Creature, Cry, Masekela Langage, Revelations), “All Battle” (Juba, Ella, No Longer Silent, In/Side, Mass), “All New” (Kairos, Lazarus), “3 Visionaries” (Mass, Ella, Divining, Forgotten Time, Cry, Revelations), and “Timeless Ailey,” comprising excerpts from many well-known and rarely performed Ailey works, including Opus McShann, For “Bird” with Love, Mary Lou’s Mass, The Lark Ascending, Phases, Hidden Rites, and Pas de Duke. The opening-night gala will be chaired by Angela Bassett and Cicely Tyson and features special appearances by Ledisi, Norm Lewis, and Brandie Sutton, a new piece by Battle set to Nina Simone’s “Black Is the Color,” and the premiere of the multimedia Becoming Ailey, which will also kick off every performance except the December 11 celebration of New York City Center’s seventy-fifth anniversary. Also on the schedule are Jamar Roberts’s Members Don’t Get Weary (music by John Coltrane), Jawole Willa Jo Zollar’s Shelter (music by Junior “Gabu” Wedderburn), Talley Beatty’s Stack-Up (music by Earth, Wind & Fire, Grover Washington Jr., Fearless Four, and Alphonze Mouzon), and Twyla Tharp’s The Golden Section (music by David Byrne).