STILL THEY DANCE! AILEY ALL ACCESS ONLINE INITIATIVE BRINGS DANCERS INTO HOMES

Encore: June 25, 2020

13 MILLION PEOPLE REACHED SINCE MARCH

FEATURES FULL-LENGTH PERFORMANCES, DANCER-CURATED CONTENT AND FREE CLASSES

INSPIRED BY DANCERS’ VIRAL PERFORMANCE OF AILEY’S “REVELATIONS”

For over six decades, the Ailey organization has brought people together through dance performances and programs manifesting founder Alvin Ailey’s belief that “dance came from the people and that it should always be delivered back to the people.” Today his mission is carried forward during these challenging times with Ailey All Access, an online series featuring free weekly performance broadcasts, Ailey dancer-curated content, and an assortment of dance and fitness classes that have already reached over 13 million people since launching in late-March. Robert Battle, the organization’s artistic director, joins us to discuss the ongoing effort to bring dance into people’s homes as well as Alvin Ailey’s potential reopening.

Aired on May 28, 2020. 

TRANSCRIPT

WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS' I'M JACK FORD.

LEGENDARY CHOREOGRAPHER AND DANCER ALVIN ALY BELIEVED DANCE KAEL FROM THE PEOPLE AND CAME FROM THE PEOPLE AND SHOULD BE DELIVERED BACK TO THE PEOPLE.

DECADES AFTER HIS PASSING THE ALVIN ALY THEATER CONTINUES TO EMBRACE THAT BELIEF, EVEN IN THE MIDST OF THE CORONAVIRUS PANDEMIC, FINDING NEW WAYS TO GET DANCE BACK TO THE THEATER.

NOW THE ARTISTIC DIRECTOR OF THE DANCE THEATER, IN HIS OWN RIGHT, ACCLAIMED AND POWERFUL FORCE IN THE DANCE WORLD.

WE'RE DELIGHTED TO HAVE HIM BACK VISITING WITH US AT 'METROFOCUS.'

WELCOME.

NICE TO SEE YOU.

THANK YOU.

NICE TO SEE YOU AS WELL.

AND I HOPE YOU AND EVERYBODY CLOSE TO YOU ARE ALL SAFE AND HEALTHY.

THEY ARE.

A LITTLE BIT BEWILDERED BUT WE'RE OKAY.

MAYBE BEWILDERED IS ONE OF THE WORDS TO CAPTURE ALL OF THIS.

LET ME START OFF WITH WHEN YOU ALL FOUND OUT THAT EVERYTHING WAS SHUTTING DOWN, YOU HAD DANCE TROOPS OUT ON THE ROAD, YOU WERE PLANNING OTHER TYPES OF THINGS, WHAT DID YOU DO TO GET EVERYBODY BACK SAFELY?

WELL, I MEAN, WE WERE ON OUR NATIONAL TOUR WHICH USUALLY STARTS IN FEBRUARY AND GOES THROUGH MAY.

SO, WE HAD COMPLETED A FEW STOPS ON THE TOUR.

WE HAD A LOT TO GO.

RIGHT.

POTENTIALLY ON THE WEST COASTAL, ALL THAT.

SO WE JUST SAW THINGS GOT WORSE AND WORSE AND FELT IT WAS JUST PRUDENT TO BRING EVERYBODY, THE DANCERS AND THE CREW BACK HOME.

IT WAS REALLY TRICKY, I MEAN, JUST MANAGING 50 PEOPLE ON TOUR, GETTING THEM OFF THE ROAD.

I CAN'T IMAGINE THE DIFFICULTIES, THE LOGISTICAL DIFFICULTIES INVOLVED IN GETTING THEM BACK.

BUT I WAS FASCINATED TO SEE, ONCE THEY ALL GOT BACK AND THEY STARTED CONNECTING, RECONNECTING WITH EACH OTHER, IT GAVE RISE TO WHAT HAS NOW BEEN A SERIES OF PERFORMANCES.

YES.

THAT HAVE BEEN DELIVERED TO THE PUBLIC.

TELL ME HOW THAT ALL CAME ABOUT.

YES IT WAS SO INTERESTING.

AS DANCERS DO, THEY FIND A WAY TO CREATE.

THEY GOT BACK, ONE OF THE MOST FAMOUS WORKS BY ALVIN IS 'REVELATIONS' IT'S ON ALMOST EVERY PROGRAM WE DO, IT CLOSER, SO A NEW DANCER, QUINN, GOT THE IDEA OF LIKE THE BRADY BUNCH WHICH WE'RE ALL EXPERIENCING RIGHT NOW IN DIFFERENT NUMBERS SHALL, SO THEY WERE ALL YOU IN THEIR SEPARATE HOMES AND SURROUNDED BY DOGS, CHILDREN, WHAT HAVE YOU AND THEY STARTED THE NOTION OF DANCING ALONE TOGETHER AND IT DEVELOPED INTO ONLINE CONTACT CALLED ALY ALL-ACCESS.

AND TELL ME HOW FOLKS OUT THERE WATCHING RIGHT NOW MIGHT BE SAYING THAT'S MARVELOUS HOW CAN I FIND THAT.

WHERE DO THEY GO?

WHERE DO THEY DISCOVER IT?

WHAT IS SCHEDULED IN THE NEXT FEW WEEKS.

THEY CAN GO TO ALVIN ALY.ORG OUR WEBSITE AND WE'RE ON INSTAGRAM AND FACEBOOK.

WE DO SHOW LIVE -- NOT A LIVE PERFORMANCE, A LIVE PERFORMANCE BUT VIRTUALLY.

AND WE HAVE A HUGE ORGANIZATION NOT ONLY THE FIRST COMPANY, BUT THE ARTS AND EDUCATION COMPONENT.

ALSO ALY EXTENSION, WHICH IS CLASSES FOR EVERYBODY.

SO YOU HAVE DANCE AND DANCE FITNESS CLASSES.

THAT CAN ALL BE FOUND.

BUT EVERY THURSDAY WE SHOW A WORK INNENT WORK IN ITS ENTIRETY ONLINE.

IT'S REALLY BROAD, TAKE A LOOK AT IT.

TALK ABOUT HOW YOU'RE ALL ABLE TO PRODUCE THAT. IF YOU THINK OF DANCE IT'S SO HIGHLY CHOREOGRAPHIED, INMATT, SO MANY MOVES INVOLVED, SOME COLLECTIVE MOVEMENTS, HOW DO YOU PUT THAT INTO A AS YOU SAID A BRADY BUNCH SCREEN.

VERY CAREFULLY.

I MEAN, THE WONDERFUL THING THIS COMPANY, IN A WAY IT'S PART OF OUR MANTRA, RIGHT, YOU SET THE QUOTE EARLIER.

BUT ALSO THIS NOTION OF ACCESSIBILITY HAS ALWAYS BEEN PART OF OUR DNA.

BUT THE DANCERS ARE SO CREATIVE.

AND THEY'VE BEEN EXTREMELY CREATEDIVE IN THIS PROCESS.

CREATIVE IN THIS PROCESS.

I'M NOT VERY CREATIVE WITH THE PROCESS I'M LEARNING A LOT.

ZOOM.

AN THE DANCERS ARE COMING UP WITH WAYS TO BE CREATIVE TOGETHER.

THEY HAVE A COMMITTEE.

IT'S WONDERFUL TO SEE IT IS TRUE THAT THE CREATIVE SPIRIT WAS BORN OUT OF NECESSITY AND THAT STILL GOES IN TIMES LIKE THESE THAT WE STILL KNOW WE HAVE A PURPOSE AS ARTISTS TO BRING SOME JOY OR SOME REFLECTIVE SOMETHING THAT FEEDS THE SOUL.

ARE THE ARTISTS ALL MAN ADJECTIVING TO STAY -- MANAGING TO STAY IN SHAPE?

I'VE SAID THIS BEFORE, I'M AN OLD COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYER AND ALWAYS HAD GREAT RESPECT FOR THE DANCERS AND THEIR ATHLETIC ABILITY.

YOU MENTIONED BEFORE, LYNN SWANN GREAT WIDE RECEIVER FOR THE STEELERS USED TO TAKE DANCE CLASSES IN THE OFF SEASON AND WAS AN ACROBATIC RECEIVER.

IT'S EXTRAORDINARY WHAT THEY DO.

HOW ARE THEY ABLE TO KEEP IN SHAPE.

IT'S NOT IDEAL, TO SAY THE LEAST.

AND THE NOTION OF COMMUNITY IT'S LIKE 20 PEOPLE IN A CLASS, THAT -- THAT IS PART OF THE EXPERIENCE BECAUSE YOU'RE SORT OF CHALLENGING ONE ANOTHER.

EITHER DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY TO DO YOUR BEST.

BUT WHAT WE DID WAS WE BOUGHT EACH DANCER THE COMPANY PAID FOR THEM TO HAVE A STRIP OF MARLEY, THAT RUBBER LOOKING FLOOR THAT DANCERS DANCE ON.

SO THEY HAVE A FIVE BY SIX PIECE IN THEIR APARTMENTS OR HOMES AND THEN THEY TAKE CLASS TOGETHER ON ZOOM.

SOMEONE TEACHES THE CLASS FOR THEM MONDAY, WEDNESDAY AND FRIDAY, I BELIEVE.

SO THAT WAY THEY'RE STILL HAVING A LITTLE BIT OF THAT COMMUNITY.

ABLE TO DO SOMETHING TO STAY IN SHAPE AND SOME PEOPLE JUST TIKTOK, THEY JUST MAKE VIDEO OF THEMSELVES DANCING.

SO WE'RE STILL FINDING A WAY.

IT'S INCREDIBLE HOW WE'VE HAD TO ADJUST SO QUICKLY.

WE'RE TALKING WITH ROBERT BATTLE, THE ARTISTIC DIRECTOR FOR THE ALVIN ALY AMERICAN DANCE THEATER ABOUT WHAT THEY'VE BEEN DOING IN SO MANY CREATIVE WAYS TO BRING DANCE TO THE PEOPLE.

YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT LESSONS THAT YOUR DANCERS AND ARTISTS ARE TAKING, YOU HAVE CREATE AID FORMAT TO PROVIDE LESSONS TO PEOPLE AT HOME WHO ARE SAYING MAYBE THIS SAY GOOD TIME TO DO THIS.

HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT?

YES, WELL, WE HAVE A WONDERFUL COMPONENT TO ALL OF OUR PROGRAMS.

ONE OF THEM IS CALLED ALY EXTENSION.

WE CALL IT REAL CLASSES FOR REAL PEOPLE.

AND THAT WAS A WAY OF GETTING THE COMMUNITY INVOLVED SO THAT THIS WONDERFUL BUILDING 55th AND 9th AVENUE IN NEW YORK CITY, THEY ARE ABLE TO SEE THE DANCE GOING ON.

THIS IS A I WAY TO BRING THE OUTSIDE IN.

WE OFFER ONLINE AND DANCE AND FITNESS CLASSES AND TO SENIOR CITIZENS, ALL THAT, BECAUSE SOMETIMES PEOPLE ARE SHY ABOUT DANCING, SO THIS WAY IN THE PRIVACY OF YOUR OWN HOME, YOU CAN CLOSE THE DRAPES AND GET YOUR DANCE ON.

AND MAYBE WHEN WE COME OUT OF THIS YOU MIGHT BE EMBOLDENED TO COME INTO THE BUILDING AND TAKE A CLASS.

ONE OF THE THINGS WE HEARD PEOPLE TALKING ABOUT IS THIS NOTION OF EXPERIMENT.

134 SOME THINGS THEY -- SOME THINGS THEY ALWAYS WANTED TO TRY TO DO BUT DIDN'T HAVE THE TIME OR THE OPPORTUNITIES, AND I THINK IT'S A PERFECT ILLUSTRATION WHAT YOU'RE DOING TO SAY TO PEOPLE HEY NOW IS YOUR TIME, NOW'S YOUR OPPORTUNITY.

IS THERE A BETTER WAY TO START DABBLING IN THIS THEN TO BE TAUGHT BY THE PERFORMERS, THE ARTISTS PART OF THE ALVIN ALY DANCE THEATERS.

IT'S A FABULOUS THING YOU'RE DOING WITH THEM.

LET'S TALK ABOUT MOVING FORWARD.

YES.

WHAT IS YOUR SENSE, AND I KNOW THIS IS JUST A SENSE, JUST UNCERTAINTY HERE, WHAT'S YOUR SENSE AS TO HOW AND IN WHAT FASHION YOU MIGHT BE ABLE TO GET THE DANCE THEATER BACK UP AND PROVIDE PERFORMANCES IN THEATERS, GET BACK OUT ON THE ROAD, HOW ARE YOU LOOKING AT THIS RIGHT NOW?

WELL, THERE'S SUCH UNCERTAINTY AS YOU KNOW.

AND WE'RE ALL SORT OF COMMUNICATING.

NOT ONLY OUR COMPANY, BUT OTHER COMPANIES, BROADWAY, WHAT HAVE YOU, OF HOW TO MOVE FORWARD.

OF COURSE WE'RE TALKING ABOUT THE DISTANCING AND THE THEATER.

WE'RE TALKING ABOUT MODIFYING SOME OF THE DANCE BECAUSE A LOT OF THE DANCERS HAVE PARTNERING WHERE WE HAVE TO BE TACTILE WITH ONE OF IF ANOTHER SO HOW DO WE DEAL WITH THAT.

SO IT'S DIFFICULT TO ANSWER, AS YOU SAID, BECAUSE OF THE UNCERTAINTY.

BECAUSE ANY ANSWER I GIVE COULD CHANGE IN A WEEK OR IN A DAY OR IN A MONTH OR IN A FEW MONTHS AND I HOPE THAT IS ACTUALLY TRUE, CHANGE FOR THE BETTER, THAT THERE'S A VACCINE OR SOME WAY THAT WE CAN KIND OF MANAGE IT.

BECAUSE OF COURSE, WHAT WE DO, THAT'S OUR BOTTOM LINE, WE BRING PEOPLE TOGETHER FOR A LIVE PERFORMANCE AND WE DO IT LIKE NO OTHER.

I MEAN, THE SENSE OF SWEATING TOGETHER AND MOVING THE AUDIENCE.

ALL OF THAT IS KIND OF HARD TO IMAGINE RIGHT NOW BUT I KNOW WE WILL GET THERE.

BUT WE ARE SORT OF CHECKING IN REGULARLY, WITH OTHER ARTIST IING INSTITUTION AND THEATERS AND PRESENTERS ON KIND OF HOW WE SHOULD MOVE FORWARD.

IT'S INTERESTING BECAUSE YOU MENTIONED SOMETHING THAT I'VE ALWAYS FOUND COMPELLING ABOUT THEATER.

AND YOU CAN CERTAINLY TALK ABOUT DANCE.

AND THAT IS, THAT INTIMACY THE ARTISTS HAVE WITH EACH OTHER AND THE PARTNERING GIVES RISE TO THAT BUT ALSO THAT INTIMACY THEY SHARE WITH THE AUDIENCE.

YOU TALKED ABOUT THE PHYSICAL EXERTION, THE BEAUTY OF THE MOVEMENT, BUT THE REAL LIFE, YOU KNOW, PERSPIRATION AND BREATHING PATTERNS, ALL OF THOSE THINGS, AND I GUESS WHAT I'M SAYING TO YOU IS -- IS -- YOU'RE DOING THE BEST TO GET THAT NOW, ARE YOU HOPEFUL YOU'LL BE ABLE TO ULTIMATELY RECAPTURE ALL OF THAT SOMETIME IN THE FUTURE.

YES, I THINK THAT WE ARE HOPEFUL THAT WE WILL RECAPTURE ALL THAT.

BECAUSE THAT'S PART OF WHAT PEOPLE LOVE ABOUT THIS COMPANY THAT IS NOW 60.

RIGHT.

THERE'S A REASON WE'VE BEEN SEEN BY OVER 25 MILLION PEOPLE, 71 COUNTRIES, 6 CONTINENTS, BUT WHO'S COUNTING?

I THINK PEOPLE HAVE A GREATER APPRECIATION.

I MEAN, THE AUDIENCE AND THE DANCERS DELIVERING THAT, HEARING THE APPLAUSE, FEELING THE SENSE OF COMMUNITY, NOT JUST ON THE STAGE.

HAVE A GREATER APPRECIATION OF HAVING THE ABILITY TO SHOW UP SHEEND OUT.

-- AND SHOW OUT.

THAT'S WHAT WE'RE GOING TO DO.

LAST QUESTION, GOT ABOUT A MINUTE HERE.

FOLKS WATCHING SAYING, THAT'S SUCH A VALUABLE ORGANIZATION WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP THEM OUT, WHAT'S THE ANSWER BE.

WE HAVE SOMETHING CALLED STILL WE DANCE.

YOU CAN FIND IT ON OUR WEBSITE, ALVINALY.ORG.

IT STANDS FOR WHAT IT SAYS WE'RE CONTINUING TO GIVE YOU FREE ONLINE CONTENT SO YOU REALLY FEEL INCLUDED IN THE JOURNEY WE'RE TAKING.

WE CAN OFFER YOU SOMETHING.

IF PEOPLE COULD GIVE WE APPRECIATE IT.

WE KNOW IT IS A HARD TIME.

BUT ANYTHING YOU CAN DO TO KEEP US ABLE TO BRING YOU THAT CONTENT WE GREATLY APPRECIATE.

ONCE AGAIN ROBERT BATTLE, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR THE ALVIN ALY DANCE THEATER, YOU'RE ALL DOING WONDERFUL WORK.

NOT NOW WHEN DO WE NEED THE VALUE OF THE ARTS AND THEATER AND DANCE AND YOU'RE DOING HEROIC EFFORTS TO TRY TO CONTINUE TO PROVIDE THAT AND WE LOOK FORWARD TO GETTING BACK WITH YOU IN THE THEATER.

THANK YOU AND DO WELL.

SEND OUR BEST TO ALL YOUR ARTISTS AND PERFORMERS.

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

BE WELL.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

WNET

© WNET All Rights Reserved.

825 Eighth Avenue

New York, NY 10019