Coronavirus News: Alvin Ailey Dance Theater in NYC offering online performances, classes

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- They are moving alone, yet together. It's the new normal at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

"There was something so sincere and beautiful about that," Artistic Director Robert Battle said. "I think for the company we're really having to think through this and what's in our DNA as an organization that has prepared us for something like this."

An unprecedented version of the first part of Ailey's masterpiece revelations shows dancers performing in their own environments.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Battle says they've closed the legendary school on Manhattan's West Side and pulled the plug midway through the company's national tour.

But like so many other organizations, they've regrouped and are now offering a broad spectrum of classes and opportunities to connect with people online.

"It's going to involve Ailey School, involve our arts and education program, or course Ailey extension and classes online," Battle said.

For the first time in the history of the company, online you can watch dancers perform pieces that in the past were only done in theaters, places like City and Lincoln Center.

"We know we can offer something to feed the soul, uplift and hopefully inspire people to give them a sense of hope that this too shall pass," Battle said.

As Battle gets ready to celebrate his 10th anniversary as head of the company, he's determined to stay true to what the late Alvin Ailey strongly believed in: that dance must be accessible to a wide audience of people.

"Alvin Ailey said dance comes from the people, should always be delivered back to the people and as always we're going to keep doing that," Battle said.

Ailey All Access is a free online streaming series already reaching millions around the globe features performances of full length works from the repertory, Ailey Extension dance classes, original short films created by the Ailey dancers, and more new content in the coming weeks.

A weekly conversation series will give viewers the chance to learn more about the Ailey dancers off-stage, from their hobbies to repertory favorites. The series is regularly scheduled on Instagram live Wednesday's and Saturday's at 1 p.m.

Additional dancer curated content as part of #TheShowMustGoOn series is a short film inspired by Artistic Director Emerita Judith Jamison's Divining, to preview the Thursday, April 9 at 7 p.m. performance streaming of that repertory favorite. Judith Jamison will introduce the broadcast and invite viewers to join her behind-the-scenes during rehearsals for Divining, a pulsating, mysterious quest with African polyrhythms, complex movement, and dynamic dancing. Upcoming performance broadcast highlights include Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Rennie Harris' Lazarus (Thursday, April 16) - the Company's first two-act ballet inspired by the life and legacy of Mr. Ailey and Alvin Ailey's Night Creature (Thursday, April 23) - a perfect fusion of Ailey's buoyant choreography and Duke Ellington's sparkling music.

Now celebrating its 15th anniversary, Ailey Extension is sharing new online class videos to YouTube to help people #KeepDancing. Students can learn a Heels combination with Courtney Sauls on Thursday, April 9; practice salsa steps with Baila Society on Saturday, April 11; and study Afro'Dance moves with Angel Kaba on Sunday, April 12. All videos will be available at 6pm ET on their respective release dates and remain on the YouTube channel indefinitely.

Live classes from Ailey Extension instructors will also continue with special dance fitness classes to help people of all ages keep moving. This week Matthew Johnson Harris will host a Kids Cardio Dance Party on Wednesday, April 8 at 3:30pm ET as well as an "I Love the 90s" Dance Cardio party on Friday, April 10 at 6:30pm ET. Janelle Issis will lead students through a BellydanceBURN class on Thursday April 9 at 2pm ET. Links to live classes, Ailey Extension's YouTube channel, and additional dance classes and resources can be found at aileyextension.com/keepdancing.

Some of the recent short films created by the Ailey dancers as part of the popular #ShowMustGoOn series include dancer Jessica Amber Pinkett reminding us how to be creative and find enjoyment throughout a New York apartment with a video dancing Artistic Director Robert Battle's Ella and company members dancing separately but together in a recent video demonstrating the intricate footwork from Rennie Harris' powerful Lazarus.

To enjoy a variety of digital content, follow AlvinAiley American Dance Theater and the Ailey Extension on Facebook and Instagram, Ailey II on Facebook, and The Ailey School on Instagram, as well as visit Ailey All Access and AlvinAiley.org regularly for updates.

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