Alvin Ailey Essay

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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre was founded by dancer, choreography and company director Alvin Ailey. Ailey’s African-American heritage inspired the themes and music for his choreography. His work often focuses on life experience, human emotions, blood memories, community and religious beliefs. He wanted to show the trials and tribulations of the black African Americans but also their elegance. For example in Cry (1971) Ailey’s intent was to portray the strength and struggle of the African-American women in the slave trade. The music Ailey uses are somewhat of an extensions of this themes as he uses gospel and spiritual music as well as rhythm and blues. In works such as Revelations (1960) we hear gospel music. The structure of Ailey’s dances are mainly episodic, for example Cry has three sections. Motif and development, canon and unison are also used throughout Ailey’s works as well as binary ternary and sequential structures which help convey they theme of the dance. His dance style uses modern and contemporary techniques such as high releases, spirals in the spine and flexion of the elbows, feet and knees. In his technique we can see influences of Martha Graham - fluid movements contrasted with sharp accents- and Horton which can be seen in Ailey’s use of Horton arms and the Horton T. In addition to this, Ailey also uses some ballet technique such as grande plies, attitudes, developpes and classical positions of the legs and arms. These techniques are often used to show the beauty of the black African-Americans. Amongst these techniques Ailey uses some African dance movements such as rhythmic patterns, isolations and grounded leg movements. The physical setting used by Ailey in his works varies depending on the theme of the dance. His dances are primarily set in a proscenium theatre with a cyclorama upstage that projects colours from lighting

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