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Photo: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater by Andrew Eccles

There are many traditions that shape the south.

Football is king.

Fried delicacies.

At the Fox Theater in Atlanta, the annual return of the Alvin Ailey Dance Company is fast becoming a tradition. Robert Battle, the company’s current Artistic Director, reminded the audience that they had been coming to the ATL since 2001.

Tradition, however, does not means old or tired. In fact, the show was a bit of the shake up from the norm with two very new pieces performed.

Let’s talk about one of them. Awakening,  choreographed by Battle by himself, is one of the most stunning performances on stage. The music was purposefully grating and raw. It resembled a horror movie score. The audience laughed uncomfortably at first, but soon they were mesmerized, like me, by the purity of the movements, the sharp, turns, and the intense physicality of the piece. For almost 20 minutes the dancers were in constant motion. Dressed in all white, they felt like a single unit fighting something together. The piece was unnerving with lights that flickered and displayed horizontally and vertically behind the dancers. While the other pieces were drenched in Afro and African diaspora, this piece was blanketed in sheer emotion. It opened after the intermission and enlivened an already excited audience.

At this stage they were well primed and pumped for the companies signature piece, Revelations. I had seen the piece a few times including another time years ago in Atlanta.

I recognized it as a lovely piece back then. But, age and life have come to convince me that Revelations is indeed a religious experience.

Sitting with a collective of mostly black folks (though there was a healthy sprinkle of diversity in the audience) I found my spirit called up more than my artistic sensibilities.

When the song “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel” played  I felt transported back to my old baptist church, curved over the alter asking for the Lord to meet me halfway.

No matter how sophisticated and educated I think I am watching the Ailey dancers move as the Holy Spirit itself caught hold, I can’t help but wave my hand and say “hallelujah.” This is not to say the piece can not be enjoyed from a secular standpoint. The grace and move of the choreography holds up even though the piece was conceived by Ailey in 1960.

But I would be lying if I just spoke of the dancing. It was a spiritual and cathartic release and the audience reacted with every hand turn, every kick and every new song.

Thursday had four pieces- Open Door, Cry, Awakening, and Revelations.  All were enjoyable, but the second act showcased the cohesive merging of two artistic styles.

I am equally as excited to see what Ailey will do next and happy to have celebrated what they have already done.

Atlanta was only the beginning. The Alvin Ailey Dance Company is currently touring and could be in a city near you. Find the tour schedule here!

International tour schedule starts in September! View that schedule here!

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