The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performs Kairos by Wayne McGregor. Credit: Paul Kolnik

2019 marks two anniversaries for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater: 60 years since the company was founded in New York, and 50 years of performing annually at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago. This year the company brings three different programs to town featuring a variety of work, including its first two-act ballet. Lazarus, which premiered in December 2018, is inspired by the life of Alvin Ailey and is the third piece created by hip-hop choreographer Rennie Harris for AAADT. Other programs include classic works by Ailey—including the 1960 masterpiece Revelations—as well as new works by American choreographer Jessica Lang (EN) and British choreographer Wayne McGregor (Kairos), which reflect AAADT’s increasingly eclectic repertory.

Robert Battle, the company’s artistic director since 2011, says, “If you break down the repertory historically, you see it’s already in there. If you look at Revelations, there’s classical line. When I look at work by McGregor, I see the influence of a work by [former Ailey dancer and choreographer] Ulysses Dove. In Night Creature, his collaboration with Duke Ellington, Ailey takes a risk blending classical ballet with jazz. That’s part of what we do.”

Having directed his own dance company, Battleworks, for a decade and choreographed several works for AAADT prior to assuming its leadership, Battle says, “I feel that same sense of relief and satisfaction curating Ailey’s repertory as I get as a choreographer making things. Ailey was one of the first modern dance repertory companies, and it feels like we’re only just getting started.”   v