Church sponsors Ailey dance show to celebrate black culture

The world-renowned Alvin Ailey II Dance Theatre performed at Lee Hall Sunday as a part of its North American tour.

The company is in the second week of a six-week tour. Ailey II is composed of young talent from The Ailey School in New York.

Jermaine Terry, a member of Ailey II from Kissimmee, danced with The Ailey School for two years prior to becoming a member of Ailey II.

Terry has been dancing since the age of 17 . He said seeing the Ailey I perform was an inspiration.

“I was blown away and amazed,” he said. “I knew I wanted to dance with them. It drove me more and made me work harder.” The company began in 1974 when Alvin Ailey chose specific students from The Ailey school to join a smaller Ailey ensemble that would help to promote the Ailey Company.

Under the direction of Sylvia Waters, Ailey II gives young dancers the opportunity to gain experience similar to that of professional dancers, in addition to enhanced skill and technique.

Ailey II was brought to the University by the New Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church as a part of the dance theater’s annual tour that includes more than 40 cities in the United States.

New Mount Zion AME Church did this as a part of its African-American Heritage Month celebration.

The Rev. John White II, pastor of New Mount Zion AME, said the church wanted the Ailey company to participate in the month’s celebration in order to give a cultural performance to Tallahassee and the surrounding areas.

The performance was composed of primarily modern dance. Modern dance is a deviation from ballet, which uses the technique of ballet but has more lenient movements.

The show began with a solo performance choreographed by Miami native Robert Battle and performed by Yannick Lebrun.Battle choreographed the dance using a cappella music and used the soloist’s movements to emulate the sound of the music.

In the second performance titled “Splendid Isolation II,” Jessica Lang, the choreographer, portrayed a woman in an oversized skirt as a muse. The woman’s white skirt covered more than half of the stage as five choral dancers danced around her costume.

The performance that followed was an excerpt from “Divining,” circa 1984, a repertory piece choreographed by Judith Jamison, the artistic director of the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre.

The fourth piece, “The Hunt,” choreographed by Robert Battle, was many of the audience members’ favorite performances. Terry expected that many audience members would enjoy “The Hunt” repertory piece the most. “(The Hunter) is very energetic,” Terry said.

During Sunday night’s show, Ailey II Company’s last piece was the repertory piece from the Ailey I Company titled “Revelations,” which is one of the company’s most well-known pieces.

The Negro spirituals and the dancers’ lively choreography and expression have made the piece greatly appreciated by many.

“Revelations” is an original Alvin Ailey piece choreographed in 1960. The piece has been arranged differently throughout the years.

Marcela Londono, a junior nursing student from Miami and an Orchesis dance member, described the Revelation repertory as “wonderful and amazing.”

“The ‘Revelations’ piece tonight should be just as powerful even though this is only the Ailey II Company; they have a name to keep up,” she said.

The show ended with a standing ovation, and a reprise of “Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham.”

Terry and other company members wanted the audience to become inspired by the performance.

“It feels really good when people come up to me and tell me how much they enjoyed watching and how I put an effect on them,” he said.

Many of the Orchesis Contemporary Dance Theatre members were highly anticipating the show.

JaHanna Daniels, 22, a senior elementary education student from Mrytle Beach, S.C., said, “I am excited to see the things we learn in class on a small scale done with 10 times better technique.”

After their performance Sunday, pastor White said the Ailey II company will be performing for the children of Leon, Jefferson and Gadsden County School districts today.

“I am excited about the performance and the cooperate communities participation,” he said.