Following the enormous success of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, in 2019 at Rotterdam's Luxor Theater, we are proud to present Ailey II, the junior company of the Ailey empire, at this nineteenth edition of the festival. The group, which kicks off the celebration of its fiftieth anniversary in the Netherlands, will perform in the Netherlands for the first time and will be exclusive to the Holland Dance Festival.
Ailey II was founded in 1974 - under the name Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble - by Ailey himself, and in doing so the master choreographer made a crucial contribution to the development and empowerment of young, particularly African-American dancers. For years, the Ailey II dancers have been widely praised for their virtuosity and their youthful, unstoppable energy and vigor. In fact, according to Francesca Harper, recently appointed artistic director, they are "remarkable, excellent and fabulous. Not for nothing do top choreographers from around the world gladly attach their names to this extraordinary youth ensemble.
'Joy of joys'
They include William Forsythe, whose rousing, central movement from his Enemy in the Figure Ailey II dances during his Dutch debut. Forsythe created this funky masterpiece set to driving, electronic percussion by Dutchman Thom Willems in 1989 for Ballett Frankfurt, and it has since been performed on stages around the world. "This work really encapsulates for me all my 'joys of joys,'" said Harper, who performed the ballet herself many times during her dance career.
Landscape of memories
The full program of The Next Generation has not yet been determined, but in any case, in addition to Enemy in the Figure, Harper's own very personal Freedom Series will also be on view. Harper created this emotionally charged work after the death of her mother, Denise Jefferson, who was principal of the Ailey School for many years. In the choreography, Harper travels, as it were, through the landscape of her memories; memories of her mother, of her time as a dancer and of all the opportunities and events that have made her who she is today. The choreography, at times melancholy and at other times extremely powerful, is ultimately, however, mostly about identity and a sense of community.
Eighth wonder of the world
And just as the 'main company' did in 2019, Ailey II will conclude its performances in the Netherlands with Alvin Ailey's Revelations. This iconic 1960 work - referred to by overarching artistic director Robert Battle as "the eighth wonder of the world" - is an impressive and, above all, whirlwind and hopeful tribute to African-American cultural heritage. Inspired by Ailey's own childhood in rural Texas, it deals not only with all the pain and struggles African-Americans have endured, but also the most celebratory and joyful moments in life. Harper: "Revelations is so expressive, so personal, you just feel that it comes straight from Ailey's heart and it is therefore a great gift to be able to share this work with Dutch audiences once again."