Get in the Spirit: Celebrating 60 Years of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at the Ailey Spirit Gala

Cicely Tyson attends the 2018 Ailey Spirit Gala Benefit at David H. Koch Theater at the Lincoln Center on June 14, 2018, in New York City.
Photo: Daniel Zuchnik (Getty Images)

Legends gathered at the Lincoln Center in New York City on Thursday night to attend the 2018 Ailey Spirit Gala celebrating the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, now in its 60th year. Cicely Tyson, Carmen de Lavallade, honorary chair Jussie Smollett and more were in attendance as the company kicked off the spring season with its annual benefit, which provides much-needed scholarships for the Ailey School and supports Ailey’s innovative Arts in Education & Community Programs.

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Established in 1958 as a seven-member all-black company by famed choreographer and dancer Alvin Ailey, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater quickly became known for its spectacular dancers and innovative choreography, which unapologetically referenced black culture, history and tradition, as evidenced by the groundbreaking and now iconic compositions “Revelations,” “Wade in the Water and “Cry.”

Dancers from the Alvin Ailey company in New York City in 1975
Photo: Afro American Newspapers (Gado/Getty Images)

Sixty years later, the now multicultural company is still going—and growing—strong, performing around the world in sold-out venues, and training new generations of dancers.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at the Deutsches Theater on July 29, 2014, in Munich
Photo: Hannes Magerstaedt (Getty Images)
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Afterward, guests enjoyed performances by all parts of the Ailey organization, including AileyCamp in a work by instructor Jonathan Lee and Ailey II’s Marcus Williams, dedicated to hip-hop legend Prodigy of Mobb Deep and in honor of the program’s 30th year; gifted young dancers from the Ailey School showcasing their talents in Robert Battle’s Battlefield; rising stars of Ailey II in an excerpt of Juel D. Lane’s Touch & Agree; and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in an excerpt of Jamar Roberts’ Members Don’t Get Weary and a memorable finale of Revelations.

Dancers from AileyCamp, the Ailey School, Ailey II and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performed for a crowd of luminaries, including media stars Debra Lee, Don Lemon and Angela Yee. The highlight was a “Celebrating Revelations” participatory workshop in Lincoln Center’s Josie Robertson Plaza taught by National Director of AileyCamp and former Ailey dancer Nasha Thomas. The performances were followed by an after-party under the stars on the famed Lincoln Center promenade, deejayed by husband-and-wife duo DJ M.O.S. and DJ Kiss.

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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Glenn Allen Sims, Linda Celeste Sims, Jamar Roberts, Akua Noni Parker, Vernard J. Gilmore and Hope Boykin.
Photo: DCP

Thursday night’s gala kicks off a season of performances that will include several new productions and world premieres by the famed company, including Jamar Roberts’ “Members Don’t Get Weary,” which lucky gala attendees caught a sneak preview of Thursday night.

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Check out the slideshow of some notable attendees below.

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About the author

Maiysha Kai

Maiysha Kai is Managing Editor of The Glow Up and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door. Minneapolis born, Chicago bred, New York built. Nuance is her superpower.