Alvin Ailey showcases new work in Chicago dance performances

Paul Kolnik
"r-Evolution," Dream Choreography: Hope Boykin, choreographer of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater premieres new work at the Auditorium Theater March 22-26.

By Alex Swan

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s visit to Chicago includes a premier piece called “r-Evolution, Dream,” choreographed by one of the company’s senior members.

“Every climate influences art,” said “r-Evolution, Dream” choreographer Hope Boykin. “When Alvin Ailey started the company in 1958, he founded it in the heart of the Civil Rights Movement. I feel like no matter what, we as artists are called to represent the times that’s our duty.”

The company are performing at the Auditorium Theatre at Roosevelt University in the Loop, March 22–26, premiering three performances new to Chicago, which are tributes to jazz icons Ella Fitzgerald and Dizzy Gillespie. The performances are in time for Fitzgerald’s and Gillsepie’s birth centennials, according to a Feb. 14 press release.

“r-Evolution, Dream” was inspired by a visit to the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, Boykin said. She added she was moved by the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and wanted to convey his message through dance.

“To create something that I feel has really been an honest expression is most important,” Boykin said.

Leslie Odom Jr., the original Aaron Burr in the Broadway hit “Hamilton,” will be narrating Dr. King’s writings alongside the dance and music in the piece. Boykin said she has known Odom Jr. since he was about 16 and asked him if he would help her with a project.

The title of Boykin’s work plays with language, although not in the way some might think. Boykin didn’t intend for the performance’s title to be mispronounced “Our Evolution,” but said she likes the concept, as it echoes her initial idea.

“I’ve always thought that the ‘r’ was lowercase because I didn’t want the emphasis to be on the revolt but more on the evolution of the person,” Boykin said.

As a former dancer, President of the Black Student Union and junior business and entrepreneurship major Malik Woolfork said the first time he sawthe company perform, he was surprised to see mostly African-American performers on stage.

“The company has a large influence in the dance community, and also to young dancers of color—seeing a dance company [that represents] them,” said Woolfork, a long-time fan of Alvin Ailey.

Alvin Ailey has made the Auditorium its home in Chicago for 47 years, said Tania Castroverde Moskalenko, CEO of Auditorium Theatre. She said because of the value Auditorium sees in Alvin Ailey, she can only see their relationship strengthening. Moskalenko also mentioned that Alvin Ailey were already booked for next year.

“The choreography that they put on stage is impactful,” Moskalenko said. “It’s never been more relevant than today because they express the situations [within] a community standpoint.”