Dazzling Alvin Ailey benefit gala hauls in $2.5M to kick off new season

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater kicked off its 2015-2016 season at the New York City Center with dazzling performances and a glamorous gala full of celebrities, philanthropists and dance enthusiasts...

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater kicked off its 2015-2016 season earlier this week at the New York City Center.

Joe Morton, Malik Yoba, Janet Mock, Kelly Rowland and New York City’s First Lady Chirlane McCray were just a few of the notable names in attendance at the company’s gala.

Artistic director Robert Battle charmed the star-studded audience with his wit and humor as he introduced choreographer David Parson’s piece “Caught.”

Creative lighting techniques and Michael Francis McBride’s graceful athleticism created the illusion that the dancer was defying gravity.  The performance certainly “caught” the attention of the audience and was a refreshing way to start the company’s new season.

Chadwick Boseman, soon to star as Marvel’s Black Panther in a multi-film deal, served as an honorary chair of the gala. He introduced the evening’s second performance, “Open Door,” a piece choreographed by Ronald K. Brown, who Boseman knew from his days at Howard University.

Looking debonair in a tailored black tuxedo, Boseman explained his family ties to Ailey.

“My brother taught me how to dream,” Boseman told theGrio.com. “As I child, I would watch my brother Kevin Boseman look at recordings of ‘Revelations’ and dream of the dancer he would one day become. I’m proud to say that Kevin danced with the second company for two years, and he danced with the first company for six years.”

The Get on Up star shared that during his Howard days, he was a dancer in a piece by Brown, but it proved to be his first and last time as a dancer for the choreographer, because he forgot the steps during the performance.

“This was one of my failures, but Ron Brown was gracious about my failure,” Boseman said. “He encouraged my courage for trying. Years later, he asked little old me to contribute text to his work ‘Order My Steps.’ I found something in myself because Ron trusted me again. He didn’t trust me to dance, but he did trust me with text. He taught me how to fail with grace.”

The evening was the world premiere of Brown’s rollicking, sexy and energetic “Open Door,” a piece infused with Afro-Latin jazz and swaying hips.

Grammy-winning singer and noted Broadway and television actress Brandy, also an honorary chair, introduced the night’s final performance, “Revelations.”

“Alvin’s magnum opus and the company’s signature ballet was a revelation to the world of dance when it was first performed 55 years ago,” said the singer, who was stunning in an emerald green dress and coiffed with a luxurious afro puff full of black girl magic. It has been requested and performed more often and seen by more people throughout the world than any other work of modern dance.”

After the singing, fan waving and high kicking of “Revelations,” the party continued with a sit-down dinner and live band at the New York Hilton Midtown. The evening celebrated not just the opening of the season but also marked Artistic Director Emerita Judith Jamison’s 50th year with the company.

BNY Mellon was also honored as a longtime and significant supporter of Ailey. Gerald Hassell, Chairman and CEO of BNY Mellon, and his wife, Agnes Hassell, accepted the award on behalf of the company.

The evening brought in an impressive $2.5 million, which will go towards scholarships, programming and creating new works.

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