Last night, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s holiday season at New York City Center kicked off with a star-studded Opening Night Gala Benefit performance and party that honored Ailey Board President Debra L. Lee (Chairman and Chief Executive Office of BET Networks) for her support of the Ailey organization since 2002. Music and film stars Queen Latifah and Janelle Monáe served as honorary chairs for the evening, and the gala co-chairs were Deedra & Bob Bakish, Emily & Len Blavatnik, Paulette & Howard Bradnock, Daria L. & Eric J. Wallach, and Joan & Sandy Weill. Over $2.4 million was raised in support of the creation of new works, scholarships to The Ailey School, and Ailey’s extensive educational programs for young people.
“We in New York are most fortunate to have in our midst a company like the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, that there are works like Revelations that uplifts us,” said Gala Honoree Debra Lee. “We need to keep this wonderful legacy alive. I am fortunate to have a position at BET where every day I can shine a light on our culture, our art, and our beauty.”
The “Modern American Songbook” one-night-only program featured excerpts of dynamic performances set to music by icons Otis Redding (George Faison’s Suite Otis); Stevie Wonder (Love Stories by Judith Jamison, Robert Battle, and Rennie Harris); Ray Charles (Camille Brown’s The Groove to Nobody’s Business); and Earth, Wind & Fire (David Parson’s Shining Star). The gala performance concluded with Alvin Ailey’s timeless masterpiece Revelations, performed with live musicians and singers.
Honorary Chair Queen Latifah remarked, “This company is forward-thinking, it’s now, it’s fresh, and it’s exciting. It’s everything Judith Jamison wanted when she handed over the reigns to [Robert Battle].”
Special guests from the worlds of business, politics, entertainment, and philanthropy included Wallis Annenberg, George Faison, Lion Babe’s Jillian Hervey and Lucas Goodman, Judith Jamison, Sheinelle Jones, Glorya Kaufman, Janet Mock, David Parsons, Dr. Ian K. Smith, Lara Spencer, Susan Taylor, Cicely Tyson, and Elaine Wynn. After the performance, the celebration continued at the Hilton New York’s Grand Ballroom where approximately 1,000 guests joined Artistic Director Robert Battle and the stars of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater for dinner and dancing with live music by the premier band Élan Artists.
Throughout December, Ailey’s 32 extraordinary dancers will unveil three world premieres, three new productions, and a variety of returning favorites, classics, and special programs. The company will continue to inspire audiences across North America with a 21-city tour beginning in January 2018. For more information, visit www.alvinailey.org.
Photo credits: 1) Susan Taylor and Cicely Tyson. 2) Bennett Rink and Debra Lee. 3) Robert Battle and Daria L. Wallach. 4) Hope Boykin and Debra Lee. 5) Lara Spencer and Rick McVey. 6) Lion Babe’s Jillian Hervey. 7) Janet Mock 8) Queen Latifa. 9) Janelle Monáe. 10) Chalvar Monteiro, Kanji Segawa, Fana Tesfagiorgis, and Solomon Dumas. 10) Robert Battle with Elaine and Gillian Wynn.