While Revelations remains the draw card of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s annual D.C. showcase, a new haunting original work is bound to capture the imagination because of its unnerving interrogation of a legal system biased against Black Americans.
The renowned dance company returns for its annual engagement at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts – which is, unfortunately, sold out. Its program includes mix of cherished favorites and fresh work, which one in particular spoke loudest to me, and perhaps a majority of the predominantly Black audience watching.
Developed over past two years by MacArthur “genius grant” winner Kyle Abraham, Untitled America is a chilling dance that highlights the impact of the prison system on African-American families. It delves into the topical issues of police brutality, racial profiling by the authorities, and the collapse of the Black family unit as a consequence of this racism.
The ballet received critical acclaim when it debuted at NY City Center in 2015, and has gone on to impress audiences throughout its year-long completion. Now, the large-ensemble work is set to a soundscape of soul, ambient, percussive, and electronic music mixed with spoken word narration by former inmates.
While the dance bravely takes on the baggage of hundreds of years of brutality and oppression faced by America’s Black population, it is also delivers a strong message of hope; because for every moment characters in this narrative seemed bound, challenged or defeated, a sudden blissful burst of freedom was sure to follow: if history has taught us anything, it is that our people, Black people, are not containable, and resilient.
“Kudos to Ailey – and Abraham – for keeping the revelations relevant,” wrote Dance Magazine about Untitled America; but, I would rather applaud the dance company for never losing sight of the struggle.