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Sun, 01.31.1960

Revelations by Alvin Ailey Debuts

*On this date in 1960, Revelations the best-known work of the modern-dance choreographer Alvin Ailey. It is also the signature work of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, which premiered an extended version of the work when Ailey was 29 years old.  Set to spirituals, gospel, and blues music and influenced by the choreographer's Christian upbringing, it presents a vision of the historically African American experience from a black church perspective.

The three sections of the final 36-minute revised version depict the suffering of slavery ("Pilgrim of Sorrow"), baptismal joy ("Take me to the Water"), and a choral church celebration ("Move, Members, Move").  While drawing on the modern-dance techniques of Lester Horton, who had been Ailey's mentor, Martha Graham, and Doris Humphrey, the dancing is also influenced by the movement studies of Asadata Dafora, Katherine Dunham, and Pearl Primus

Revelations has been presented at the White House on many occasions, including the presidential inaugurations of Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, and it also formed part of the Opening Ceremonies for the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.  

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