Hope Boykin’s excellent r-Evolution, Dream, performed by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is a celebration of the soul, mankind and humanity. In a year marked by a presidential election outcome that left many feeling hopeless about the next four years, Boykin’s uplifting amalgam of movement, words and color gave me hope.
Where to begin? There are several layers worth noting.
For one, Leslie Odom Jr.’s familiar (Hamilton) voice as narrator is a comfort in these tough times, a balm and Boykin’s original lyrics with excerpts from Douglas Malloch, William Shakespeare, Isaac Watts, Alma Irene Bazel and William Cowper drove the story from The Ages of Man to civil rights to today and reminded us that ’The mind is the standard of the man,’ and that ’You must be measured by your soul.’
In a recent interview, Boykin, a veteran AAADT dancer, teacher and choreographer who joined the Company in 2000, told TNJ.com that she was inspired to create the piece after hearing sermons and speeches by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. during a visit to the Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, GA. ”At the Center, there was a room were there were excerpts from Dr. Kings Drum Major Instinct sermon and there was footage from a funeral – all playing at once. I listened to the cadence of his voice and I heard cadence differently from when I listened to it before. There was something about it that was ringing strong, so I did some research and started to download some of the speeches. I read them, played them in the car while driving and felt that there was something I wanted to say with it,” she shares.
She continues, ”Some of his words and ideas are still so relevant that I thought it would be great to hear them while you saw movement. I know that we are in a society where spoken word is popular now, but it wasn’t so much about the idea of spoken word as it was about the message. So, I asked Leslie to narrate some of the things I wanted said. And most of the excerpts are quotes from other people that Dr. King, as a scholar, often used. Whether quotes from James Weldon Johnson or Mahalia Jackson, the quotes made a difference to him.”
AAADT’s dancers mastered Boykin’s choreography in true AAADT style, the worthy descendants of Mr. Ailey that they are, dressed in bursts of fresh color – vibrant fuschia, black, white and green, with the exception of the leader who resembled MLK dressed in MLKs usual attire of black pants, a black thin tie and a white shirt with the sleeves rolled up. “I designed the costumes, so it makes me happy when people say they like them! I knew I wanted the groups to be separate, so the costumes are very similar meaning that the wives have a similar shape and silhouette, the fathers/husbands have a similar shape and silhouette, the young girls have a similar shape and silhouette, and the only thing that separates them is color. And thats how we function today,” Boykin notes.
With a soundtrack of riveting new music composed by Ali Jackson (Jazz at Lincoln Center), r-Evolution, Dream is just everything. December 28th is your only chance to see it before the companys 2016 City Center season ends. A must-see.