Ailey 2 – Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s second company – is among the most talented of its generation, pouring strength, grace and soul into emotional and powerful performances that captivate audiences around the world. Founded in 1974 as a bridge between The Ailey School and the professional dance world, Ailey 2 is recognised for merging the spirit and energy of the next generation of talented dancers with the creative vision of today’s most outstanding and emerging choreographers.
This autumn they return to the UK for the first time since 2011 for a Dance Consortium tour of twelve venues around the country, eleven of which have never hosted the company before, all keen to bring some of the famous Ailey spirit to their audiences.
The tour will open at Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury on 19 September and Ailey 2 are bringing their stunning work to Theatre Royal Plymouth for two nights only on 26 & 27 September.
The company’s new artistic director Francesca Harper (internationally-renowned performer and choreographer) has put together an exhilarating repertoire by a diverse range of choreographers which includes a timeless classic from Alvin Ailey himself.
For their return to the UK, Ailey 2 brings an exciting repertory featuring Francesca Harper’s futuristic Freedom Series (excerpt, 15 minutes), Robert Battle’s thrilling The Hunt (14 minutes), the incredible energy of William Forsythe’s Enemy in the Figure (excerpt, 18 minutes), and Alvin Ailey’s beloved masterpiece Revelations (36 minutes).
Revelations, the company’s signature piece, was choreographed by Ailey when he was only 29 years old in 1960. A life-changing work, it has been seen by more than 23 million people in 71 countries, more than any other modern dance work. Using African American spirituals, song-sermons, gospel songs and holy blues, Revelations explores the deepest reaches of the soul. Ailey said that one of America’s richest treasures was the cultural heritage of the African American and this enduring classic is a tribute both to that heritage and Ailey’s genius.
The company will perform the intensely propulsive central section of William Forsythe’s 1989 work, Enemy in the Figure. The choreography is driven by Thom Willem’s percussive and rhythmic electronic score which also influences the radical use of light and shadow in its design. This excerpt puts the formidable dance skills of the Ailey 2 dancers on fine display, giving their craft and vitality an invigorating framework.
Robert Battle is Artistic Director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. His 2001 classic The Hunt is a primal ritual with a distinctly urban feel fuelled by a thundering percussion soundtrack by Les Tambours du Bronx. This athletic work, originally choreographed for six male dancers, explores the relationship between modern sports and the rites of the gladiators, revealing the predatory side of human nature and the primitive thrill of the hunt. Battle found inspiration for the work in his background in martial arts.
Francesca Harper created her futuristic work Freedom Series on the company in 2021. Inspired by her Ailey homecoming, she has created a landscape of memories, a hybrid world where the past strives to influence the future. Developed in collaboration with the Ailey 2 dancers, Harper’s work examines identity and community. This excerpt is danced to a montage of acoustic and electronic sounds. Freedom Series’ unexpected twists and turns bring tender moments to its intrinsic ferocity.
The dancers of Ailey 2 for the 2023/24 season are: Andrew Bryant; Spencer Everett; Jaryd Farcon; Maya Finman-Palmer; Patrick Gamble; Alfred L. Jordan II; Kiri Moore; Corinth Moulterie; Kali Marie Oliver; Tamia Strickland; Kayla Mei-Wan Thomas; and Maggy van den Heuvel.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Ailey 2 are companies with a strong family ethos. New Ailey 2 artistic director Francesca Harper embodies this. She took her first dance steps at The Ailey School, the official school of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, where her mother Denise Jefferson was director from 1984-2010. Harper aims to bring fresh perspectives to Ailey’s legacy, while nurturing new creative voices and propelling the company forward.
The company has an extensive community outreach programme. For this Dance Consortium UK tour, the programme includes masterclasses, open rehearsals and workshops alongside special projects being hosted by member venues as part of the Ailey Project UK.
Dance Consortium is a group of 18 large-scale theatres with a mission to bring the best international dance to stages across the UK and Ireland.