I'm wondering when I first became aware of Alvin Ailey. I've always loved to dance since I was about 4 years old. The funk and soul dances of the of the 70's and 80's were things I knew as my parents had lots of records and music and dance was just part of my upbringing. I was a cheerleader in middle school and then high school I wanted to be a dancer. Castlemont High School was at that time the performing arts high school of Oakland and I wanted to be in the dance department. I wanted to be a professional dancer. As I'm reminiscing it seems that all of a sudden I knew about Fame and the performing art high school in New York City the movie and TV was based on. I knew different styles of concert dance, modern techniques, jazz, Dunham. Ok, LOL, now I remember. It was my experience in attending Everybody's Creative Arts Center as a teenager that sparked my interest in dance as a profession.
My mother took dance classes at Everybody's to keep in shape after her 6th child. She took me with her to watch my baby brother while she danced. I was about 14 years old. That's were the dance bug bit me and I was forever changed. I soon enrolled in the the summer dance programs and quickly accelerated into my journey as a dancer. That's were I learned about Castlemont Performing Arts High school. Castlemont gave me a pre-professional training and I learned for the first time vernacular jazz, contemporary Jazz, ballet, and the techniques of Lester Horton, Martha Graham, Limon, and Katherine Dunham. While in high school and into my first year at Laney college, I took many extra curricular classes with Ron Guidy of the Oakland Ballet, and Alonzo King at Lines contemporary ballet studio. All of this prepared me for the audition for entry into the dance program and a scholarship to the Alivn Ailey American Dance Center in NYC. At 19 years old I left my hometown to pursue my dreams of being a professional dancer.
I'm writing all of this because I just saw a video of Judith Jamison dancing Cry, a role she originated. Alvin Ailey choreographed this piece as a birthday gift to his mother and stated, Cry, dedicated to "all black women everywhere...especially our mothers."
As a student at the Alvin Ailey school, and a life long support of the company, I have seen this performance danced many times by many different dancers. I've only see photographs of Jamison dancing the role herself. As I watched this limited release, only available on the Ailey Youtube channel between May 7 -May 14, I felt I was watching the piece for the very first time. It was created on Judith Jamison's body and every movement of choreography was nuanced with a sacred genetic code of the divine feminine, the African woman! Watching Jamison's performance I was enraptured with a deep understanding of myself. It was as if I was reintroduced to the complexities of the strength, struggles, triumphs, and pains of my existence on this planet. Not just in my daily walk but in the but also in my experience of studying at the institution Mr. Ailey created. This school was a space for me and other women like me to study and train our body's to be great athletes. Mr. Ailey, your creation of Cry introduced me to my self. 'Ahhhhhhh', was the revelation, 'this is who I am.' And for the deepening of my self knowing I am grateful!
Mother's Day is 2 days away. As we are close to two months of the Shelter in Place during Covid-19, the Ailey organization released multiple videos of performance the public can watch as we are locked down and ordered to stay inside. The 2 videos to honor Mother's Day; Judith Jamison dancing Cry in 1972, and a video of several former Ailey dancers dancing the same role art such a gift to use all! Thank Alvin Ailey organization. Seeing these videos is a balm for my heart in these troubled times.