Alvin Ailey once said that one of America’s richest treasures was the cultural heritage of the African-American – ”sometimes sorrowful, sometimes jubilant, but always hopeful.” This idea of the “African experience” reveals an enduring classic that is a tribute to that heritage and to Ailey’s genius. Ailey’s famous work “Revelations” explores a social progression from slavery to the celebration of freedom, taking the audience to places from the deepest grief to the holiest joy in the soul.
“Revelations” is composed of three main sections, each of these sections encompassing several pieces. The opening section of “Revelations” reveals a warm setting with a spotlight of a group of dancers. Ailey described this section as “songs that yearn for deliverance, that speak of trouble and of this world’s trials and tribulations.” The section shows an earthy feel of heat and struggle through the muted lighting and brown flesh colored costumes. A solemn musical atmosphere is reflected by the weighted choreography and sheer power the dancers depict. In the first piece, “I’ve Been Buked”, nine dancers flow in hushed harmony, performing a ritual that represents a race under scrutiny. The movement involves effective motifs and dynamic contours in unison as well as in canon. The second piece is a trio that involves faster-paced music but still in the gospel genre, giving it more of a celebratory feeling. The “Fix Me Jesus” duet conveys the undeniable strength of faith between a woman and Jesus. The woman never directly looks at him but there are constant leanings, balance and leg extensions that speak of trust and confidence in belief.
The second section jumps to a brighter setting with contrasting white costumes and cool blue lighting. In “Wade in the Water”, the white represents the purity of the baptismal situation and each dancer brings on a prop of some sort that adds to the piece. At one point, white sheets are flowing from one side of the stage to the other, adding dimension and dynamics against the powerful choreography. The fifth piece, “I Wanna Be Ready”, communicates a passionate man’s willingness and readiness to die. The man is constantly reaching upward and many of the movements in the solo are most likely derived from the Horton modern dance technique.
The final section celebrates the liberating power of present-day gospel music. This section includes a trio of men powerfully leaping and throwing themselves about the stage. The entire piece seemed like they were dancing for their lives and weren’t worried about the lines and shapes they were making just feeling it and moving. The most famous “Yellow” piece is also in the last section. The setting is in a rural Baptist church in the present day; the dancers, in yellow costumes, enact a church service with fans and stools. They are stretched across the stage proudly lifted to the heavens as they embody the joy of faith by choreography performed in unison.
Alvin Ailey’s “Revelations” is a piece that has been remembered for decades and will be remembered for many more to come. This revolutionary piece of art reveals nothing less than the spirit, strength, joy, and genius of Alvin Ailey.
Alvin Ailey- Revelations Essay
2329 WordsJan 9th, 201310 Pages
Alvin Ailey’s Revelations was premiered in 1960 and is based on Alvin Ailey’s childhood memories of worshipping at his Baptist church in Texas. The music within Revelations is a compilation of African American spirituals which helps to develop the idea of the music that was played and sung in the small black churches near to where Alvin lived with his mother during his childhood. Throughout Revelations you see and feel a mixture of emotions as the story starts to unfold and you can see clearly the intensity of how much his life has influenced revelations largely.
Revelations is split up into three sections and each section has three or four sub-sections. Section 1 entitled Pilgrim of sorrow contains ‘I’ve been buked’, ‘didn’t my lord…show more content…
The use of contractions help to show the strength that it takes them to try and be free but are still not strong enough to get away as it is shown when the women sink to their knees whilst performing a slow contraction. In the closing phrase of this sub section there is a rapid change of levels as the tempo speeds up the dancers perform a manic spiralling to drop down to make an obvious abrupt end.
Contrasting to ‘Didn’t my lord deliver Daniel’ we move onto ‘Fix me Jesus’ which is performed as a duet and portrays the priest and someone that has gone to confess. The lighting changes to blue and white which gives a crystal like intensity. At the start of this section the male figure is stood behind the women and almost covers her movements as if to protect her and to show the trust. The repetition of the women’s hand gestures also seems as if he’s giving her his blessing. There is also repetition from sub section one ‘I’ve been buked’ with the use of proximity and actions such as the bird pose which helps to portray the emotion of this part. Throughout this part the women doesn’t always focus on her partner but is still reliable on him. This is shown through tilted balances and lifts where the male is the supporter. There is an extensive use of weight bearing, strength and trust which are all metaphors within this piece and the use of off kilter positions and balletic actions help to enhance the mood.
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