’Tis the Season for a Virtual Dance Season at Alvin Ailey

Watch and support the dancers of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s new and old work during the holidays



This December, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre will be showcasing performances on YouTube for free, allowing anyone to see their work.


With an extended winter break, you may already be worrying about entertaining yourself for two months away from school. If you need a break from social media and Zoom, tune in to Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AAADT)’s first ever Virtual Winter Season on YouTube

From Dec. 2-31, the company will be showcasing both old and new works in a completely online format. The entire season will be livestreamed for free and feature guest artists as well as returning performers. 

Robert Battle, artistic director of the company, explained his goal as “bringing people together using dance and the African American cultural experience with works that inspire and enlighten as well as provoke conversation and change.” To engage with the community and younger generations, there will be an interactive “Family Matinee” and a variety of other special programs as a “much-needed opportunity to come together in a universal celebration of the human spirit,” Battle said. 

The most renowned piece in the company’s repertoire, “Revelations,” will be celebrated opening night with a virtual benefit to commemorate 60 years since its debut. “Revelations” is a 36-minute ballet with 10 different sections, one of AAADT founder Alvin Ailey’s most famous works. With songs such as “Fix Me, Jesus” and “Sinner Man,” the piece uses spiritual themes to explore Ailey’s African American culture and childhood. For this virtual performance, “Revelations” will be “reimagined,” keeping the integrity of the original piece while using modern times as inspiration.

The premiere of a piece titled “Testament” will feature choreography by Matthew Rushing, Clifton Brown and Yusha-Marie Sorzano, a powerhouse trio of choreographers. They collaborated to create this work in response to “Revelations” using an original score by Damien Sneed, an award-winning artist who excels in gospel and jazz. “‘Testament’ will draw on the deep personal experiences and reflections from current dancers,” Battle said.

“Our voices ring loudly through our bodies’ language, and when our hearts break, we get up. When our hearts break, we stand up. When our hearts break, we dance.” Hope Boykin

Another new piece to keep an eye out for is “A Jam Session for Troubling Times” by company member and choreographer Jamar Roberts. Jazzy, energetic and nuanced choreography will explore the music of Charlie “Bird” Parker through movement. This work will use the spirit of jazz and the sound of the saxophone to uplift and inspire. More jazz pieces will be showcased, specifically, highlights from Ailey’s collaboration with Duke Ellington in “Pas de Duke,” originally danced by Judith Jamison and Mikhail Baryshnikov. 

To stay up to date with the company’s content and Virtual Winter Season, fans can subscribe to its YouTube channel. Last May, Battle announced “Ailey All Access,” a way to watch the company’s performances for free through YouTube. Since the pandemic, Ailey’s YouTube platform has reached over 10 million users. Company members produced multiple dance series, such as “The Show Must Go On,” “Dancer Diaries” and “Conversations With…” to keep the dance community alive. 

Being an artist during this time requires maturity and adaptability, adjusting as needed to the new protocols and COVID-19 surges. But one thing that has stayed consistent in these professional dancers is their work ethic, passion and dedication to the artform itself. 

The performers of AAADT are no doubt working just as hard in the studio, even if their pieces won’t have a live audience. Despite social limitations, these artists are taking full advantage of the opportunity to inspire communities with dance. 

Hope Boykin, a company member of almost 20 years, explained it best: “Our voices ring loudly through our bodies’ language, and when our hearts break, we get up. When our hearts break, we stand up. When our hearts break, we dance.” 

Some BFA students at The Ailey School are especially excited to see this event. Claire Pennington, Fordham College at Lincoln Center ’22, remembers watching Ailey’s 2019 season last year. She kept the playbill and recalled how mesmerizing the performances were: “It was powerful. I couldn’t take my eyes off of them. I was up on the balcony, but their movement was still able to captivate me.” Pennington also shared her perspective on the upcoming online format, saying, “The virtual performance will be like front-row seats — but you’re just sitting at home.” 

The Ailey organization is also collecting donations to give back to the dancers who will be pouring their hearts out on stage, knowing that their audience goes beyond the screen.