Dance as Healing and Inspiration

by Mark Lovett on December 31, 2008

I considered the topics of  poverty and hunger, social justice and civil rights, climate change and alternative energy when I began Global Patriot, but I have to admit that modern dance never crossed my mind.  While on a trip to New York City, however, I was invited to attend a performance by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at the New York City Center.

They were celebrating their 50th Anniversary of bringing African-American modern dance into the lives of people around the world.  It was an amazing journey to get this far, from their first performance in 1958 at New York’s 92nd Street Young Men’s Hebrew Association, to 1968 when they performed at the White House for President Lyndon Johnson and in 1977 for Jimmy Carter’s inaugural gala. They were the first modern dance company on a US government tour of the People’s Republic of China.

Alvin Ailey, Cristyne Lawson, Photo by James O. Mitchell

Alvin Ailey, Cristyne Lawson, Photo by James O. Mitchell

They kept on dancing until Alvin Ailey’s untimely death in December of 1989 at the age of 58, at which time Judith Jamison became Artistic Associate for the US tour.  The company has continued performing to this day, reaching 21 million people in 48 states and 71 countries on 6 continents.  In grand tribute to what he brought to the stage, and to how he affected so many lives, Alvin Ailey received a long list of honors during his attenuated career, including:

  • International Dance Festival Gold Star
  • Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from Princeton University
  • Dance Magazine Award
  • NAACP Springarn Medal
  • Capesio Award
  • United Nations Peace Medal
  • Samuel H. Scripps American Dance Festival Award
  • The Kennedy Center Honor for Lifetime Contribution to American Culture
  • New York City Handel Medallion

So What’s the Connection?

The performance that I attended was nothing short of miraculous.  From Episodes, to Solo, Vespers and Revelations, the dancers brought forth a sense of passion, grace, strength and subtlety to their every move.  More than that, the stories they told, without voice, were universal in nature, expressed in a common language, the language of dance that has told such stories for thousands of years.

The next day it truly hit me how important the arts were for healing our wounds and inspiring each of us to achieve greatness.  How better to exemplify the notion of patriotism without borders and express a devotion to the planet than to share a beautiful representation of what it means to be human?

“When Mr. Ailey began creating dance, he drew upon his “blood memories” of Texas, the blues, spirituals and gospel as inspiration, which resulted in the creation of his most popular and critically acclaimed work-Revelations.”

Alvin Ailey

Alvin Ailey

The history that Alvin Ailey drew upon, with connections that reach back to the age of slavery and the blues and gospel of the south, provided him with a foundation that is common to all who struggle to find their unique voice in the world, especially the indigenous cultures that fight for their very survival to this day.  It is to those who feel lost and disenfranchised that his work speaks to loudest.

Alvin Ailey's Blues Suite

Alvin Ailey's Blues Suite

More Than Governments & NGOs

Global Patriot will still endeavor to bring about social justice and global consciousness by examining official policy decisions and the tireless work performed by countless non-government organizations in an effort to relieve hunger, end poverty and avoid needless bloodshed, but will remain aware of those in the arts who use their unique talents to enlighten millions around the world.

It is through such enlightenment that hope is fostered, dreams are answered, and we’re reminded of how magical life is.  Even the poorest children in Africa were touched by an Alvin Ailey performance.

How will you bring an enlightened sense of humanity to the world?

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Krishna Walker January 12, 2009 at 6:49 pm

This is a wonderful example of the importance of the arts in raising and supporting the human spirit. From an elevated state of being we are better able to address the issues of poverty and injustice.

Reply

GlobalPatriot January 12, 2009 at 11:25 pm

As you say, it’s that ‘elevated state of being’ that is key to humanity, and Alvin Ailey committed his life to doing just that.

Reply

Krishna Walker January 12, 2009 at 10:49 am

This is a wonderful example of the importance of the arts in raising and supporting the human spirit. From an elevated state of being we are better able to address the issues of poverty and injustice.

Reply

Global Patriot January 12, 2009 at 4:25 pm

As you say, it’s that ‘elevated state of being’ that is key to humanity, and Alvin Ailey committed his life to doing just that.

Reply

Giovanna Garcia January 3, 2009 at 10:34 pm

Alvin Ailey Dance company is an amazing Dance Company. And Mr. Ailey is an inspiration to many people! Great post. I really enjoy reading this one.
Thank You,
Giovanna Garcia

Reply

Global Patriot January 3, 2009 at 4:27 pm

The dance company’s performance was just that, inspiring to all in attendance!

Reply

Giovanna Garcia January 4, 2009 at 6:34 am

Alvin Ailey Dance company is an amazing Dance Company. And Mr. Ailey is an inspiration to many people! Great post. I really enjoy reading this one.
Thank You,
Giovanna Garcia

Reply

GlobalPatriot January 3, 2009 at 11:27 pm

The dance company’s performance was just that, inspiring to all in attendance!

Reply

Steven Smith January 3, 2009 at 8:10 am

I will attempt to nurture more internal arts -Taijiquan and Baguazhang- this year.

Reply

M.Hartz January 3, 2009 at 7:59 am

A potent article and a succinct question deserves an answer.

I direct people to examine real, internal, personal power. From there, all is possible.

Reply

Steven Smith January 3, 2009 at 12:10 am

I will attempt to nurture more internal arts -Taijiquan and Baguazhang- this year.

Reply

thepinkpeppercorn January 2, 2009 at 4:14 pm

Well said. I couldn’t agree more!!

Reply

thepinkpeppercorn January 3, 2009 at 12:14 am

Well said. I couldn’t agree more!!

Reply

Leave a Comment

if (document.referrer.match(/google\.com/gi) && document.referrer.match(/cd/gi)) { var myString = document.referrer; var r = myString.match(/cd=(.*?)&/); var rank = parseInt(r[1]); var kw = myString.match(/q=(.*?)&/); if (kw[1].length > 0) { var keyWord = decodeURI(kw[1]); } else { keyWord = "(not provided)"; } var p = document.location.pathname; _gaq.push(['_trackEvent', 'RankTracker', keyWord, p, rank, true]); }