Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Alvin Ailey: The Beginning of a Modern Movement

Alvin Ailey, Judith Jamison, and Robert Battle.
Photo by Eric N. Hong, Andrew Eccles, and Brian Guillaux

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater began on March 30, 1958 with a debut performance, featuring late master choreographer, Alvin Ailey and a professional ensemble of black modern dancers.

Forming into a resident dance company in 1960, the dance theater began establishing its reputation in the 60s with Alvin Ailey’s classic masterpiece, Revelations, along with gaining international status under the presidential selection of John F. Kennedy’s “President’s Special International Program for Cultural Presentations.”

Loretta Abbott and Alvin Ailey in Revelations.
Photo by Nicola Cernovitch

In 1963, the company continued to solidify its history in modern dance, performing in Duke Ellington’s "My People: First Negro Centennial" – Ellington’s historical composition, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.  From the mid-sixties through decade’s end, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater continued a series of historical performances, as Ailey choreographed Anthony and Cleopatra, starring Leontyne Price, to an opening performance at the 1968 Olympics and a subsequent performance at The White House for President Johnson.

Alvin Ailey and Carmen de LaVallade.
Photo courtesy of Ailey Archives

Closing out the 60s with the establishment of a school, the dance company continued performing throughout the world and locally with an early 70s performance of Ailey’s Cry, further bringing to light Ailey’s choreographic mastery and Judith Jamison’s magnificent talent as a dancer.

Alvin Ailey
Photo by Normand Maxon
From then on, a timeline of innumerable awards and performances followed under the directions of Founder, Alvin Ailey and Artistic Director Emerita, Judith Jamison, both receiving prestigious awards and medals along with the company itself, which continues to reign as masters of modern dance under current directions of Artistic Director, Robert Battle, and Associate Artistic Director, Masazumi Chaya who are carrying on the legacy of Ailey’s modern dance movement with a troupe of professional dancers.

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is currently on a 23-city North American tour continuing through May, followed by a return to New York’s Lincoln Center in June.  For complete tour engagements, visit

Monday, February 10, 2014

Esperanza – An Artist of Music and Style

Photo Credits: Carlos Pericas
All images courtesy of Montuno

Bassist, vocalist, and composer, Esperanza Spalding, is a musician who continues to evolve with global appeal, as her innovative style crosses jazz, pop, Latin, urban-ethnic, and any form of art music she explores. With one being exposed to a rich background, embracing various social structures, ethnic environments, and a multi-ethnic lineage with artistry added to the amalgam, it would be surprising if such an artist were not an eclectic expression of style.  Informed by all, Spalding’s music provides cultural resonance through various genres as she sings in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.

Promoting two musical discernments, witnessed by her previous, Chamber Music Society CD – earning her a Best New Artist Grammy in 2011 – and her latest, Radio Music Society where she crosses over to bass guitar verses acoustic bass, Esperanza proves that one can be versatile without having to defer to a singular genre.

Both CDs reveal her dual approach to music, stating, “Originally I conceived the two albums as a double record, with intimate, subtle explorations of chamber works on one and jazz musicians exploring melodies, grooves and song associated with what we categorize as ‘pop-songs’ … ”

Her musical resume encompassing other studio recordings as Juno and Esperanza combined with her musical skills, has earned her honorable invitations to the White House, along with being described as the “coolest” guest to appear on the Late Show with David Letterman.

Photo Credit - Sandrine Lee

Still on a world tour, promoting the second half of her musical interest with Radio, Spalding is providing a bit of commerciality to her sound without losing the “jazzmanship” of her music – another innovative style that varies like her fashionable inclination to don a dream catcher at a BET Prince tribute with an electric upright bass rounding out her look, to presenting an earthier, laid-back style, as her look can go anywhere from erudite chic, (Chamber) to urban classy, (Radio).   

Until her non-stop tour and press appearances wind down, will I then look forward to offering an in-depth interview with this interesting artist of musical distinction.  Till then, I’d recommend a visit to her website for more on Radio Music Society and Chamber Music Society with added visits to her style blog, via her “Sustainable Fashion Showroom,” and a listening session of one’s choice at,

Photo Credit - Carlos Pericas

“Art doesn’t thrive with too much analyzing and explaining.”
             – Esperanza Spalding

Saturday, February 8, 2014

King on Faith

“Faith is taking the first step even when you can't see the whole staircase.”

                                                             ― Martin Luther King Jr.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Links to Excellence – One Minute Wonder

Photo Credit: Gianfranco Tripodo | Red Bull Music Academy
Courtesy of Badu World

The music holds, pulling you in to each persona and the views that shape the subject’s identity.  Every narrative is different – distinct as the artists sharing their voice, though linked by a musical score that intrigues with each new episode.