Alvin Ailey- Revelations

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Alvin Ailey’s Revelations was premiered in 1960 and is based on Alvin Ailey’s childhood memories of worshipping at his Baptist church in Texas. The music within Revelations is a compilation of African American spirituals which helps to develop the idea of the music that was played and sung in the small black churches near to where Alvin lived with his mother during his childhood. Throughout Revelations you see and feel a mixture of emotions as the story starts to unfold and you can see clearly the intensity of how much his life has influenced revelations largely. Revelations is split up into three sections and each section has three or four sub-sections. Section 1 entitled Pilgrim of sorrow contains ‘I’ve been buked’, ‘didn’t my lord deliver Daniel’ and ‘Fix me Jesus’. The opening part of revelations is about trying to get up out of the ground. This is reflected with the costumes as they are quite minimalist and are coloured natural shades of brown. However the dark shades of costumes and emotions used within this piece also portray a sense of slavery within the actions that they perform. In this section Alvin Ailey is trying to show they are united and are as one. ‘I’ve been buked’ is the opening of revelations and starts off the story of his childhood. The dark background is lit with a golden sun which gives a sense of the sun rising and of the rising up from the earth. As the gospel music starts to play it makes it seem more religious and like they are trying to pray for a better life. The starting position links to the idea of the praying as they stand with their hands by their sides and their heads facing upwards towards the sky as if to reach or beg for hope. As the dancing starts to be performed in unison it makes the execution and timing of the movements much more effective as they are very precise which shows the uniting between them as characters. Especially in ‘I’ve been buked’ the movements reflect the words which makes it more lyrical. For example when the song says ‘I’ve been buked’ the dancers always have their heads looking upwards or watching their movements. To me this is like they are watching every movement so that they don’t get ‘buked’ again. As the piece goes on they go into scattered staging but then go back into a group and perform a still image which gives a sense of solidarity. The change of tempo highlights when they are trying to break out and when they are united as one. Also the repetition of the chorus and verse provides a solid structure to the piece. Within the whole of revelations there is a key focus on gestures such as reaching out and grabbing hold of the ribs which give the sense of hope and hurt. In ‘I’ve been buked’ we also see the first bird pose which is repeated throughout the piece. The bird pose is the bending of the knees and contraction of the back that leans over forwards with your arms pushing back to create a wing like pose. It is used throughout revelations and is one of the most known movements within this piece. To me it is like the story of the slaves how they want to learn to fly and get away but don’t know how but still keep trying. By repeating this movement it emphasises the hope that they have and the reason why they pray. After ‘I’ve been buked’ it moves onto ‘didn’t my lord deliver Daniel’ and ‘Fix me Jesus’. ‘Didn’t my lord deliver Daniel’ is performed as a trio and emphasises the importance of the praying through gestures and motifs that have already been performed but are developed. For example throughout this sub-section there is a key focus on deep plié’s in second which links to ‘I’ve been buked’ where they are also used but this time the elbows are drawn into the waste. There is a clear contrast in the lighting as the bright lights emphasize the energy and the change of mood. The music also helps to portray this as the tempo is faster and more energetic. The formations used within this section is almost like two against one which gives a sense that...
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