The most exciting news I heard this week was that Barack took Michelle and the kids to see the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater for their inaugural night out.
The first time I saw the Ailey company, Ailey himself was still dancing and Judith Jamison, his muse, sashayed out with her umbrella and her flowing white dress in Revelations, choreographed to spirituals and gospel music. I was overwhelmed; I realized dance wasn't just beautiful, it could be an agent for change.
Judith Jamison in Alvin Aileys Revelations photo by Ailey Archives
The audience always erupts after Revelations and it's on each and every program the company offers. It makes you want to Wade in the Water with them (one of the spirituals). It makes you Want to be Ready (another). It lifts you up by your bootstraps, that is if you have any. It makes your heart soar. It makes you want to laugh and cry at the black experience. Ailey proved definitively (with Arthur Mitchell) that black dancers or any color dancers can do ballet, or anything they want to, that the core and corps values of dance are supremely unifying.
And this is not just about one black swan in a row of white ones.
I must have seen Revelations a score of times since then: in NY, in LA, with friends, family, relatives, students I mentor. I always imagine the Ailey company must be sick of doing this, their signature piece.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Alvin Ailey's Revelations. Photo by Andrew Eccles
Yet every time I see it, there is new life, new energy and often a new crop of dancers that dazzles.
I've been worrying about the arts like many others here in our country. I was so happy that Obama made dance a priority even on the eve of his cheerleading address to Congress. His actions said, yes, we must minister to our economic woes but we must also lift our spirits in other ways, not just by massive infusions into the banking/car/housing sectors.
They also said, take your children, your loved ones along with you.
And I'll even take it a step further. Take a student, or a grown up, someone you know can't afford it, to see these dancers. One of the best stimulus packages we can give ourselves includes wonderful things like the Ailey Company -- and this has a price far lower than any mortgage or swap gone sour.
The company has just started its fifty city U.S. and worldwide tour. Even if you have seen them before -- no matter what age or sex or race you are, take a hint from the Obamas.