Honorary Chair Tyson Beckford and AAADT Artistic Director Robert Battle with Ailey Spirit Gala Co-Chairs and Vice-Chairs. Photo by Christopher Duggan
Honorary Chair Tyson Beckford and AAADT Artistic Director Robert Battle with Ailey Spirit Gala Co-Chairs and Vice-Chairs. Photo by Christopher
Duggan

Led by artistic director Robert Battle, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s 2015 Lincoln Center engagement kicked off with a star-studded Ailey Spirit Gala. The one-night-only benefit performance and party honoring the Ford Foundation and sponsored by FedEx featured supermodel and actor Tyson Beckford as Honorary Chair. Gala Co-Chairs were Gina F. Adams, Ricki Lander, Almaz & Marc S. Strachan, Pamela Zilly and John Schaefer and Daria L. and Eric J. Wallach, and the Vice Chairs were Michele and Timothy Barakett, Dr. N. Anthony and Robyn Coles, and Leslie & Tom Maheras. The evening helped raise over $1 million for Ailey’s extensive educational programs for young people, including AileyCamp and scholarships to The Ailey School.

Gala Honorary Chair Tyson Beckford with AAADT Artistic Director Robert Battle. Photo by Christopher Duggan.
Gala Honorary Chair Tyson Beckford with AAADT Artistic Director Robert Battle. Photo by Christopher Duggan.

The Ailey Spirit Gala featured performances by all divisions of the Ailey organization, including the world-renowned Ailey dancers in excerpts of Matthew Rushing’s ODETTA and in Robert Battle’s Takademe. The rising stars of Ailey II performed an excerpt of Manuel Vignoulle’s Breakthrough, gifted young dancers from The Ailey School (ages 6 to 23) showcased their talents and the breadth of the program’s training in a work called Synergy, and talented students from AileyCamp performed a work inspired by Christopher Huggins’ Anointed. An expanded cast of the present and future stars of Ailey came together for a memorable finale of Alvin Ailey’s timeless Revelations.

After the performance, the celebration continued at the party on the promenade. Ailey’s Board of Trustees, including Chair Daria L. Wallach and President Debra L. Lee, Artistic Director Emerita Judith Jamison, and more than 650 guests, including TODAY Show anchor Tamron Hall, Power star Naturi Naughton, Saturday Night Live star Jay Pharoah, writer and MSNBC host Janet Mock, The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt actor Tituss Burgess, Orange is the New Black’s Lorraine Toussaint, Black-ish actress Jenifer Lewis, film star and lead in the forthcoming production of Broadway’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch Taye Diggs, and many more joined in dinner and dancing with the Company to the musical stylings of deejay to the stars, DJ M.O.S.

From left to right: Gala Honoree Darren Walker and Executive Director Bennett Rink. Photo by Dario Calmese Jr.
From left to right: Gala Honoree Darren Walker and Executive Director Bennett Rink. Photo by Dario Calmese Jr.

One of the night’s exciting moments was the announcement of Simon & Schuster’s upcoming children’s book based on the life of Robert Battle, which will be released on October 27, 2015. The book is called My Story, My Dance: Robert Battle’s Journey to Alvin Ailey. It is the unique story of a young boy whose life is filled with music, church, and movement – first martial arts, and then, after seeing Alvin Ailey’s Revelations, dance. The book is sure to inspire young people around the world, and is created for ages 5 – 10.

Ailey’s Lincoln Center season continues through June 21st. Highlights include the June 17th Company premiere of Mr. Battle’s No Longer Silent, FREE Ailey Extension classes during NYC Dance Week (June 18 – 27), and farewell performances from celebrated Ailey dancers Antonio Douthit-Boyd, Kirven Douthit-Boyd, and Alicia Graf Mack. For the comprehensive season press release with details on the repertory, the Saturday Ailey Family Matinee Series, and the “Ticket to Dance” Ailey Extension FREE class offer, click here.