Joan Weill, Robert Battle, Eileen and Michael Chiarello, Jessica Bibliowicz

Joan Weill, Robert Battle, Eileen and Michael Chiarello, Jessica Bibliowicz

*Under the leadership of new artistic director Robert Battle who was chosen by his predecessor, the legendary Judith Jamison, as “the creative force of Ailey’s future,” the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre (AAADT) extraordinary dancers are moving audiences once again with their unparalleled artistry during its inaugural five-week only New York City Center season.

The season which kicked off with a splashy Opening Night Gala Benefit hosted by honorary chairs First Lady Michelle Obama and Iman on Wednesday, November 30, 2011 and will run until January 1, 2012, honored Kimberly B. Davis, president of the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, and helped raise $2.5 million for AAADT’s programs for children and young people, including AileyCamp and scholarships to the Ailey School.

Battle expressed sincere gratitude to Davis for her exceptional philanthropic leadership in the broader community and JPMorgan Chase Foundation’s longstanding support of the Ailey organization.

In his warm welcoming remarks, Battle shared a statement from the first lady that saluted Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the company’s role in educating and inspiring the next generation.

John Legend, Judith Jamison, Robert Battle, Paul Taylor, Kimberly B. Davis

John Legend, Judith Jamison, Robert Battle, Paul Taylor, Kimberly B. Davis

Nine-time Grammy Award-winner John Legend and Ailey’s Alicia Graf Mack staged a mesmerizing performance of If It’s Magic, choreographed by artistic director emerita Judith Jamison to the timeless music of Stevie Wonder.  The Company debuted Arden Court by Paul Taylor, the first work by the modern dance master ever performed by AAADT.

The sold-out crowd of over 2,000 patrons of the art enjoyed a one-night-only performance of Lar Lubovitch’s duet Prelude to a Kiss and an inspiring finale performance Alvin Ailey’s masterwork Revelations with live music and a cast of 50.

The enthralling excitement continued with the world premiere of Home, Ailey’s new work by hip-hop choreographer Rennie Harris set to a soul-lifting score of gospel house music inspired by stories submitted to the “Fight HIV Your Way” contest of people living with or affected by HIV (an initiative of Bristol-Myers Squibb).  The Opening Night premiere commemorated World AIDS Day and the anniversary of Alvin Ailey’s death from the disease 22 years ago.

The celebration continued at the festive gala party in the Hilton New York & Tower’s grand ballroom with 1,000 guests that included Debra L. Lee, Katie Couric, Joan & Sandy Weill, Henry McGee, Pauletta Washington, Misty Copeland, Cicely Tyson, Jacque Reid, Susan Taylor and Judith Byrd, who joined in dinner and dancing with the stars of AAADT.

Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation acknowledges top tier companies for their special support of Opening Night Gala Benefit festivities that included Simin & Herb Allison; American Express; BNY Mellon; Linda & Sandy Lindenbaum; Prudential Financial, Inc.; and Joan & Sandy Weill and The Weill Family Foundation.  Prudential Financial, Inc. and Wells Fargo serves as co-sponsors of AAADT season; and Diageo provided the spirits for the engaging dinner dance following the performance.  (Photo Credit: Christopher Duggan)

Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.

audrey j bernard