OSWEGO — The Ailey II dance company returns to SUNY Oswego’s Waterman Theatre at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 2, to cap off a week of special events for rejuvenated Tyler Hall with an evening of works linking the past and future.
The popular ensemble’s appearance marks this fall’s reopening of Tyler and the college’s principal performance venue after major renovations and modernization.
“Ailey II was the perfect choice for this celebration,” said John Shaffer, director of arts programming for SUNY Oswego’s Artswego Performing Arts Series. “They share one of the great legacies in American dance, but their exuberant performances are always exciting and forward-looking.”
Through its highly engaging dance residencies, New York City-based Ailey II has built a following outside the major metropolitan centers reached by the senior Ailey company, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre.
Ailey II dancers frequently move on to careers with the senior troupe or other top-tier companies, so that spending an evening with Ailey II is watching a new generation of gifted dancers.
Founded by renowned dancer and choreographer Alvin Ailey in 1974 as the performance and outreach arm of The Ailey School in New York City, Ailey II first visited the Oswego campus in 1981.
Thirty-five years later, on its fourth appearance here, current company members will bring a program of works ranging from an Ailey classic to vibrant new pieces created for them by contemporary choreographers Jae Man Joo and Bridget L. Moore.
A featured work of the evening is “Revelations,” Alvin Ailey’s signature creation — a suite of emotionally evocative dances set to traditional spirituals and blues music.
Ailey said one of America’s richest treasures is the African-American cultural heritage, “sometimes sorrowful, sometimes jubilant, but always hopeful.”
Born out of what the renowned choreographer called “blood memories” of his childhood in rural Texas, “Revelations” is a tribute to that tradition. Since its premiere in 1960, it has been performed continuously around the globe, proving its appeal to universal emotions. Due to its lengthy touring history, “Revelations” is regarded as the most widely seen modern dance work in the world.
While Ailey II’s fall tour brings this classic work to Central New York, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is performing it in Edinburgh, Copenhagen and Lausanne, Switzerland.
In July, the piece was also featured in the Lincoln Center at the Movies program, simulcast to cinemas around the nation.
Renewing a connection
Sylvia Waters, artistic director emerita of Ailey II, plans to return to Oswego as a special guest of the college for the Ailey II performance.
A former principal dancer with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, she was personally selected by Ailey to lead what was first known as the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble.
In 1996, the State University of New York and the college awarded Waters an honorary doctor of fine arts degree following Ailey II’s third campus and community residency.
Waters remained at the artistic helm of the company until turning over those responsibilities to Troy Powell four years ago.
As with Ailey II’s previous engagements in Oswego, key elements of the November visit will take place outside the performance hall. On Tuesday, Nov. 1, Powell and the dancers will conduct a free noon lecture demonstration at the Community Folk Art Center in Syracuse, and a 6 p.m. master class for intermediate dancers at the Lee Hall dance studio at SUNY Oswego.
To register for the master class, call the Artswego office at 315-312-4581.
Tickets for the Ailey II performance on Nov. 2 are $25 ($5 for students and youth), available at all SUNY Oswego box offices, online at tickets.oswego.edu or by calling 315-312-2141.
Parking is included in the price of a ticket, and is available in the employee lot in front of Culkin Hall and the employee and commuter lots behind Hart and Funnelle residence halls.
For more information about this and other arts programs at SUNY Oswego, visit www.oswego.edu/arts.