Spring 2015 Project: Inheriting Ailey: Featuring a New Work by Matthew Rushing


For immediate release:

Announcement and Audition Call for

Yale Dance Theater’s

Spring 2015 project

Inheriting Ailey: Featuring a New Work by Matthew Rushing


Yale Dance Theater is pleased to announce its 2015 project, which will focus on the influence of African American concert dance in the 21st century. As the project centerpiece, Matthew Rushing, a long-time featured dancer with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AAADT), will create a new dance exclusively for YDT. In tandem with the development of Rushing’s new work, Renee Robinson, a celebrated dancer and former Ailey company member, will stage an excerpt from the early Ailey ballet Blues Suite (1958).

Forming his company in mid-20th century, Ailey promoted African American cultural forms while simultaneously embracing multiculturalism. He did so by featuring diverse training and repertory, including Caribbean and African dance, ballet, Graham technique, jazz and tap, and Horton technique. As Thomas F. DeFrantz has written, through his multicultural synthesis, Ailey’s intention was to “free the dancer from restrictions imposed by race, movement vocabulary or choreographic genre” (664).[1]Ailey looked both to the past and the future in dance, supporting established and emerging choreographers, commissioning new works, and reviving old classics.

Taking Ailey’s cue, YDT’s project will look backward and forward at once. The juxtaposition of Rushing’s new creation with Ailey’s Blues Suite will offer YDT dancers an unprecedented window into Alvin Ailey’s aesthetic legacy.

Rushing’s YDT commission will immediately follow his new commission for AAADT, recently announced in the New York Times.


We have a small number of spots available for new members!


Monday September 22, 7 – 8 pm  INFORMATION SESSION

The Ballroom, 220 York Street

Hosted by YDT student coordinator Holly Taylor, Emily Coates, faculty director, and YDT dancers


Wednesday September 24, 6 – 7 pm AUDITION

Broadway Loft Studios, 294 Elm Street, Room 303

Horton technique class, led by guest artist Frederick Earl Mosley


Research themes

This year marks YDT’s first concerted attention to music in relation to dance. Rushing plans to extend his research into the music of Odetta–undertaken for his AAADT commission–to incorporate a broader collection of 20th century vocalists from the American folk music tradition into the Yale piece. Through our 2015 project, YDT will maximize ties with scholars, musicians, and departments across the university working in related fields.

Through the support of the Arts Discretionary Fund, Theater Studies and the dance studies curriculum are pleased to offer a course in the spring of 2015 that will link directly to YDT’s project. Constance Valis Hill, a professor of dance in the Five Colleges and guest instructor at Yale, will teach THST 406b/AFAM 428b/AMST 335b: Dance and Black Popular Culture. YDT dancers are not required but are certainly eligible to take the course. The course will welcome non-dancer students with an interest in the topic, as well. The students in the class may serve as research assistants, archivists, and/or writers responding to the development process. The goal in linking a course to the project is to expand the number of students engaging with dance and the work of YDT and to increase the number of writers writing for the YDT blog.


About the artists

Matthew Rushing joined Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1992 and became Rehearsal Director in June 2010. He is the recipient of a Spotlight Award and Dance Magazine Award and was named a Presidential Scholar in the Arts. During his time with the Company, he has choreographed two ballets: Acceptance In Surrender (2005), a collaboration with Hope Boykin and Abdur Rahim-Jackson, and Uptown (2009), a tribute to the Harlem Renaissance. In 2012, he created Moan, which was set on Philadanco and premiered at The Joyce Theater.

Renee Robinson is a retired American dancer from Washington, D.C., who performed as a Principal Dancer of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Robinson was a member of the Alvin Ailey II before becoming a member of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1981. She has worked with many renowned choreographers, such as Alvin Ailey, Lar Lubovitch, Donald McKayle, Judith Jamison, Ulysses Dove, Jerome Robbins, Bill T. Jones, Garth Fagan, Katherine Dunham, Hans van Manen and Carmen de Lavallade.

Alvin Ailey founded Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1958 to carry out his vision of a company dedicated to enriching the American modern dance heritage and preserving the uniqueness of the African-American cultural experience. He established the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center (now The Ailey School) in 1969 and formed the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble (now Ailey II) in 1974. Mr. Ailey was a pioneer of programs promoting arts in education, particularly those benefiting underserved communities. Throughout his lifetime he was awarded numerous distinctions, including the Kennedy Center Honor in 1988 in recognition of his extraordinary contribution to American culture. When Mr. Ailey died on December 1, 1989, The New York Times said of him, “you didn’t need to have known [him] personally to have been touched by his humanity, enthusiasm, and exuberance and his courageous stand for multi-racial brotherhood.”


YDT’s spring 2015 project is sponsored by the Arts Discretionary Fund in Yale College in cooperation with the dance studies curriculum, Theater Studies, and Alliance for Dance at Yale.


[1] Defrantz, Thomas F. “Composite Bodies of Dance: The Repertory of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater,” Theatre Journal 57.4 (2005) 659-678.