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Mitzi Kay Jackson

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DANCE
by Mitzi Kay Jackson   
Rated "PG" by the Author.
Last edited: Sunday, December 18, 2011
Posted: Sunday, December 18, 2011

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“Dance is for everybody. I believe that the dance came from the people and that it should always be delivered back to the people. I have blood memories about Texas, the blues, spirituals, gospels, works songs, all those things going in in the 1930s during the Depression. I did extensive research, listened to a lot of music, dug even deeper into my early Texas memories, and came up with the piece I would call Revelations.
Church people share a special fondness for Revelations and many of the most devout church people are black. The church was always very important, very theatrical, very intense.”

Alvin Ailey

Dance, my favorite of all the art; there is nothing like the human body and its ability to be heard. Sammy Davis Jr., Gregory Hines, Savior Glover and the scene in Stormy Weather with the Nicholas Brothers. Katherine Dunham, Alvin Ailey, Debbie Allen, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Janet and Michael Jackson I can go on and on how dance connects and radiate within the human spirit. Dance is a language without words; it is the ability to use your body to do the talking and to tell stories in your movements. When watching Martha Graham “A Dancer’s World”, she stressed how dance was a communication and a dancer cannot fail in character or passion, she said “speak clearly”. First, in dance the language is flexibility and control, and it requires discipline. She said you learn to conform because the only competition is in/with the individual you are to become. You learn to conform so you can be free. Secondly, you become capable of the art of theatre in spontaneity and complete simplicity. In doing this you move from group/company to smaller set dancers of six or four to solos and standing out in your expression. Third, you learn a dancer’s world is the heart of man, it is a privilege, it is the act where theatre begins as expressed by Martha Graham, saying “a dancer is in character through make-up, hair and wardrobe.

 

A dancer much like an actor in preparation uses make-up, hair and wardrobe not only to communicate with the audience but to deepen their sense of the character they are portraying. A dancer’s job is much harder than that of an actor for several reasons.  An actor delivers his/her messages through words, which is a much easier, faster form of communication. A dancer form of communication sometimes include lyrics to a song but for the most part relay on a leap, a bend, a stretch of the limbs. See with words an actor not only have the words but the use of tone and pitch. They both have access to setting, sounds and lighting in addition to the earlier mention items. With an actor if he/she doesn’t do their job the audience isn’t too lost because the words are spoken, but in dance if you express yourself in away the audience can’t understand or connect and feel emotionally then you just wasted someone’s time.

“Revelation” is first a title of one of the books actually the last book of the Bible, it is also a choreographed and dance piece of Alvin Ailey in which it is called Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. It is a dance depicting around the 1940s southern Baptist Church experience. “Revelation” is steeped in the southern Black family values and culture. The dance is made up of three sections; the first section is “Pilgrim of Sorrow”. It incorporates the Black folk wanting to get out of the situation (racial discrimination, lynching etc.). The dances in this section is; “I’ve Been Duked”, “Didn’t My Lord My Lord Delivery Daniel” and “Fix Me Jesus.” The second section in “Revelation” is titled “Take Me To The Water” which is based on southern baptisms in the rivers and not an inside pool, dances in this section are titled;  “The Processional”, “Wade in the Water”, and “I Want To Be Ready”. And the third and final section of “Revelations” is “Move Members, Move” which is personal and intense, the dances in this section is “Sinner Man” and “The Day is Past and Gone, You May Run On, Rock my Soul in the Bosom of Abraham” all of which is a celebration using the traditional gospel and spirituals. In the first section, in the dance “I’ve been duked” one of the lines say “ain’t gone lay my religion down” it repeats it, it is a testimony of the African American slave, our spirit of resilience as well.

 

The first time I saw “Revelation”, by the end I was on my feet and in tears. I could relate to “Revelations” on so many different levels. Seeing it was a praise of our journey, of our struggles and perseverance, as many of our ancestors did with handing things over to God, having faith and practicing in all the southern Baptized tradition. My family and I spent my entire childhood Christmas vacation in the south. We stayed with family in Slydell, Louisiana, Picayune, and Bassifield, Mississippi. Where almost all the grown men in the family was a Baptist Preacher, Minister, Deacon and where Baptism took place in the actual river or lake. I love learning and seeing anything on the black culture especially in celebration of. Alvin Ailey really represented well this experience I experienced as a child and young teen coming up, the long white dresses, the umbrellas, the sash, it all was a beautiful thing to experience and they portrayed it all so well. Wade in the Water is my favorite dance of “Revelation” because I remember the summer Baptism where my favorite part of church.

 

“The Stack- Up” and “Revelation” are dances representing the Black American experience. “Revelations” again is southern family values and culture and the “Stack Up” is portraying New York/ Harlem big city life, that is way the pace and rhythm is so much faster than that of “Revelation”. The “Stack-Up” depict some of the ills of city life and some of the beauty, all the different shades moving and doing and relating and in city life being in Detroit with have gangs, drugs and false friendships. The “Stack Up” was choreography by Talley Beatty, it incorporates music from Earth, Wind and Fire, David Gates & Grover Washington Jr., Fearless Four and Alphonze Mouzon. The set design is by one of America’s and African American’s favorite artist and certainly my favorite artist Romare Bearden. I enjoyed what Mr. Ailey said, when he said he didn’t believe in the elite’s attitude that ballet is for a certain people or person, he said he wanted to make ballets that his aunts and uncles could relate too, and he has certainly accomplished that with both “Revelation” and the “Stack up.”



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