As chilly temperatures descended on Manhattan last night, 600 guests across the arts, business, philanthropy, and politics gathered at the New York City Center for Alvin Ailey’s opening night gala—kicking off the company’s 65th anniversary season.
“I think we can all agree that there is nothing like an Ailey performance,” says honorary co-chair Sunny Hostin. “There’s an electricity, a current that runs from the stage to the audience and back—an undeniable energy and spirit. You leave an Ailey performance changed somehow uplifted, hopeful, and also proud.” Simply put, the company—plus its patron and supporters near and far—are a community. As co-chair Elaine Wynn puts it, “there is an unmistakable bond between those who have gone before and the future still to come.” So, it made sense that the milestone gala paid tribute to one of the company’s most incredible dancers and artistic director emerita Judith Jamison in her 80th year.
A two-part occasion, the night began with a one-night-only performance entitled A Tribute and Celebration for Judith Jamison, brought to life by Cynthia Erivo and Hope Boykin. For the piece, Ailey dancers performed to Erivo’s moving, live renditions of Michael Bublé’s “Feeling Good” and Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now.” Following was a riveting performance of Ailey’s signature Revelations, which brought the crowd to their feet for a long-lasting standing ovation.
Across the street, dinner and dancing at the Ziegfeld Ballroom was next. Guests like Bevy Smith, Lorraine Toussaint, Lena Waithe, Bianca Lawson, Damian Woetzel, and chef Maya-Camille Broussard made their way to the dance floor where premier band Élan Artists sang live hits by Whitney Houston and Rihanna. All in all, the event raised over $2.5 million to support new Alvin Aily works, scholarships, and educational programs.
“I know that the next 65 years of Ailey will bring more joy to share and progress to make,” expressed Jamison, taking her turn on the stage. “There will be changes to face and challenges to meet. But so long as we hold on to the unshakeable faith in God and humanity that has fueled this company’s purpose since those first shoestring performances; We will not just survive, we will flourish.”