by Maria Wisniewski
These uneasy-and frankly bleak times, often involve feeling numb as a means to deal with the whirlwind of updates of change to future plans I had been relying on for months and years, in advance. A month or so ago, no one would have anticipated this situation of the repercussions of the Coronavirus to happen. A major portion of the population is directly affected by the global pandemic, and of course our lives as we knew it are no longer living out the way in which we were leaning onto (whether we knew it or not). On that note, there are many realizations people are now having, due to the current situation; aspects of life in which some of us may have taken for granted before. However, “taking things for granted” is a consequence of a societal life, in general. Humans could not function efficiently in the abstract roles “assigned” to them (mother, best friend, dancer, voter, patient, citizen etc.), if we were constantly in turmoil trying to live in “survival-mode,” all the time. People need to rely on something, some normalcy, to actually live life. We have to “take some things,” for granted for rational reasons. This is where I get into my viewing of the premiere of the ballet, Revelations, by the renown choreographer, Alvin Ailey.
What people have been forced to learn over the course of these couple weeks of the pandemic and its devastating effects, is how much we rely on each-other. We, the people, rely on one another to function in the way we desire, to feel happy, and to live comfortably. This is not a bad truth. This is quite beautiful and humbling. Revelations speaks to this remembrance of us being human, and mortal, yet capable of coming together and becoming stronger than we may feel. Particularly, under a unified faith. For Ailey, this faith stemmed from his Baptist religion and black heritage, as the historic piece, Revelations, bases its workings (choreography, costumes, music, instrumentals) through Ailey’s inspiration from his Southern Baptist upbringing as an African American, in the 1930s and 40s (Wenzel, 1). However, “faith,” can be broadened-and still greatly applicable to the theme of Revelations- to mean faith in humanity. Alvin Ailey’s implementation of African American’s unifying culture of gospel, soul and holy blues (Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation, Inc., 1). deepen the message of human unification-that is particularly important to understand now. In a moment of literal chaos, the only thing we can rely on is human relations; the love, the care and concern we have, the help we give, the nurturing we ask for, the entertainment-all human based. How we, the people, rise up and out of these catastrophic situations, is by aligning ourselves and coming together in one way, or another. Whether this be in concern for one another, or to remember the joy that we are able to share, art such as dance can do both through raw human movement.
The physical viewing of Revelations depicted human and earthly colors in the first third of the piece. There was no flashy or exaggerated makeup, stage lights, or costume. All dancers looked to be one and moved with one another. As the audience, all that was to be focused on was the pure humanness in their body’s movements, muscles, and reaction to others’ touch. The music was choired gospel music in which the dancers chillingly embodied through precise and strong quality movements. Later, the piece’s visuals branched to stunning all white costumes-early 20th century gowns with hats and umbrellas for the women, and flowy white pants without shirts for the men. This aesthetic choice seems to almost depict the dancers portraying a non-human experience- as if their spirits of their faith were consuming them for a bit. Their movements initially became lighter to watch, with drums and quick movements, but then slowed down entirely to a solo of a man who appeared to be having a grieving and wondering moment through his faith-this may have been the most captivating moment for me personally. The last portion showed everyone together on the stage, in fancier costumes with more color and spunk. The soulful-jazz inspired gospel music began a scene of great excitement-showing almost a full circle of human experience in faith (in God and in humanity) from the despair to the joy.
The week before our true spring break began in early March- before any of us became severely concerned about the Coronavirus-I invited my mom and grandparents to the Latin Ensemble concert in Snell, for us to all watch my close friend perform. The concert was spectacular and lively, as always, but my grandmother was particularly moved. She always has appreciated the arts, from reading, to dance, to music (particularly Polish polkas), but she had never seen a Latin ensemble concert before and she was wonderfully taken back by the connectiveness and fun the instrumentalists and vocalists had on stage together (not even counting yet, the remarkable music and performance they put on). My grandmother also saw my grandfather, who is struggling with late stage Alzheimer’s, genuinely absorbed in the music and enjoying himself as an audience member. When we went back to congratulate my friend after the concert ended, my grandmother immediately emotionally admitted how, “this is what the world needs.” She explained how seeing the entire ensemble on stage connecting and enjoying themselves and connecting to the audience through their performance of such rhythmic and lively music, creates a priceless feeling that is incredibly important for the world today. This moment instantly came to mind when I let myself think about the impact of arts created by human, whether that be Revelations or Latin Ensemble’s concerts. Regardless of a global crisis ongoing or not, humans need each other to feel full, and that is the one thing we should fight for.
Ailey, Alvin. “Revelations.” Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, 17 Sept. 2019, www.alvinailey.org/performances/repertory/revelations.
Wenzel, Ryan. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, www.kennedy-center.org/education/resources-for-educators/classroom-resources/performance-guides/performance-guides/19-20-season/200206-alvin-ailey-american-dance-theater/.