Revelations by
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Prompted By Fame

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Fame well deserved came to a young African American choreographer one night in 1960 when he premiered a new work at the 92nd St Y.  The choreographer was 29 year-old Alvin Ailey,  and the piece was Revelations.

Inspired by what Ailey called blood memories of his rural Texas childhood,  and by Negro spirituals,  gospel,  and the blues,  Revelations is about tribulation,  human tenacity,  and the saving grace of music and dance.

That cold January night in New York,   Ailey and his young troupe brought down the house and Revelations made modern dance history.  Ailey continued to work as a ground-breaking choreographer,  and also as humanitarian,  social activist,  and cultural ambassador.

In 2014 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his contributions to American dance,  arts education,  and civil rights.  Sadly the award was given posthumously,  but Alvin Ailey lives on in his revolutionary work,  and the dance company and school of dance he founded.

Ailey’s American Dance Theatre tours the country throughout the year,  performing at New York’s City Center traditionally in December when Revelations is always part of the program.   One year as I was about to enter the hall,   a taxi pulled up and Oprah Winfrey stepped out,   “Thanks for your book club,  and enjoy the dance!”,   I called out to her.

This past December we were at City Center once again to see Revelations for the eighth or ninth time.   It still has the power to free my spirit and rock my soul – go see it and be moved.

– Dana Susan Lehrman


Profile photo of Dana Susan Lehrman Dana Susan Lehrman
This retired librarian loves big city bustle and cozy country weekends, friends and family, good books and theatre, movies and jazz, travel, tennis, Yankee baseball, and writing about life as she sees it on her blog World Thru Brown Eyes!

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Tags: Alvin Ailey, Modern Dance, Choreographers


  1. Betsy Pfau says:

    Yes, a pioneer of modern dance, involving the Black experience. How lucky that you’ve been able to see and experience the company so many times (and have that chance encounter with Oprah!).

  2. Laurie Levy says:

    If it comes to Chicago (post pandemic and if we ever have live dance performances again), I will take my granddaughter, who is a major dancer. She would love it. Can we see it on YouTube?

  3. Marian says:

    Love, love, love the Ailey troupe and Revelations, Dana. I’ve seen it at least twice live and a number of times on screen and never get tired of it. I recommend it as a must-see for those not familiar with modern dance. Can you guess that I’m a frustrated modern dancer? I took classes at Mills and it turned out that I had a foot bone deformity that made serious dancing impossible, but I learned so much and got a very deep appreciation of all sorts of dance. We try to go to Stanford programs and one of these days will get there again.

    • How wonderful that you’ve danced Marian and I too love modern dance best.
      My Bocelli concert friend Viv has taken me line-dancing with her which was fun to do, now she’s moved on to West Coast Swing, and my friend Lynn has wanted me to go to Israeli folk dancing with her and I regret now I never did!
      Covid is teaching me that the best philosophy is Carpe Diem!

  4. I still regret falling ill and not being able to use my ticket when the troupe performed here in L.A. at Royce Hall (UCLA) back in the 80s. Of course I’ve seen them on PBS, but it’s just not the same. Hopefully I’ll have another chance…when things open up, art venues may thrive as never before.

    I did see Bill T. Jones, also at Royce Hall; phenomenal!!

  5. Suzy says:

    I was a modern dancer too, like Marian. I went into NY on Saturday mornings for years for dance classes, and even performed at the 92nd Street Y (I still have the program). So I know and love Alvin Ailey. Thanks for reminding me about him and his wonderful dance troupe.

    • Wonderful to find out more about you and now about your dancing past Suzy, and performing at the 92St Y is impressive!

      The Y is such a wonderful venue, as you surely know one could be there 3 or 4 times a week for a concert, or an art or dance class, a swim, a yoga class, a lecture, a poetry reading, or even a food fair etc etc etc!

      Love that place, glad you know it and know Alvin Ailey!

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