The world premiere of a new work titled Holding Space is the centerpiece of an online offering by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, presented by Cal Performances at Home from the University of California, Berkeley. The program also includes the premiere of two films featuring the Ailey company in iconic works from the group’s history.
Holding Space was choreographed by Jamar Roberts, who joined the troupe in 2002 as a dancer and was appointed its first resident choreographer in 2019. Roberts also designed the scenery and costumes for Holding Space, which the company describes as “centering on healing and the quest for sustainable pathways towards wholeness.” His earlier choreography for the group includes Members Don’t Get Weary, Ode, and A Jam Session for Troubling Times, the latter a birth centennial homage to Charlie “Bird” Parker.
Ailey founded his dance troupe in 1958 and first garnered international recognition in 1960 with the premiere of his Revelations, created from memories of his boyhood churchgoing experiences in rural Texas. The Cal Performances program features a “dance dialogue,” which combines archival footage of Revelations from the 1960s with a performance of its final section, “Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham,” by current company members, filmed at the Wave Hill Public Garden & Cultural Center in the Bronx.
In 1971, Ailey created a solo piece called Cry, performed by legendary dancer Judith Jamison, as a birthday present for his mother. The three-section work, set to music by Alice Coltrane, Laura Nyro, and The Voices of East Harlem, was an immediate and enduring hit.
In her autobiography, Jamison wrote, “Exactly where the woman is going through the ballet’s three sections was never explained to me by Alvin. ... Coming out of a world of pain and trouble, she has found her way and triumphed.” As a 50th-anniversary homage to Cry, current Ailey dancer Constance Stamatiou performs the third section, “Right On. Be Free,” in a new film adaptation of the work.
The Alvin Ailey company’s presentation will be viewable through Sept. 8. Tickets are $15 for a single viewer, $30 for two viewers in a single household, and $60 for four or more viewers, at 510-642-9988 or secure.calperformances.org/events.