Alvin Ailey: Cry
When Alvin Ailey’s Cry premiered in 1971, Judith Jamison was praised for her tour-de- force 16-minute solo. An original New York Times review expressed that “She looks like an African goddess”. Cry - originally a gift for Ailey’s mother - was dedicated to “all black women everywhere, especially our mothers”. This work, one of Ailey’s greatest successes, evokes an emotional journey, as the performance depicts the struggles of African American women suffering the extraordinary hardships of slavery. Through self- determination, these women overcome their tribulations to attain justice and emancipation. [insert argument here] Alvin Ailey (1931-1989) grew up in a time of racial segregation, discrimination and violence against African Americans. The era depicted in Cry belongs to his parents’ generation; a time spanning both the ‘roaring 20s’ or ‘Jazz Age’ and The Great Depression. This era saw the rise of extremist groups, such as the Ku Klux Klan, which promoted a view of white supremacy and were responsible for violence and injustice towards African American people. Ailey experienced horrors of this kind from a young age in his hometown, Texas. His mother was raped by a group of white men, and Ailey once explained that “having that kind of experience as a child left a feeling of rage in me that pervades my work”. Ailey called these experiences “blood memories” and used them as an inspiration for is works. Ailey is credited with popularising modern dance and revolutionising African American participation in 20th Century concert dance. His interest in dance came about with his involvement in the Hollywood Studio of Lester Horton, where he developed a large range of techniques - including classical ballet, jazz and native American dance - all of which influenced his works. These techniques are evident throughout Cry: Deborah Manning executes classical movements such as leg extensions, arabesques, chaines, and port-de- bras. These movements are linked...
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