Alvin Ailey and Christopher Bruce

This essay looks to discuss the works of Alvin Ailey and Christopher Bruce. Revelations 1960, Cry 1971 and Swansong are the three works to be conversed. Revelations 1960 creates a picture of African American history; it communicates to us as an audience, portraying a political view on African American slavery. Ailey manages to show us the life’s of these slaves through the use of racial related, themed songs and gestural movement; ‘Take me to the water’ is a section in the dance by which we are able to acknowledge the daily routines of these slaves and the extent of the poor living conditions they were subjects of, ‘Wade in the water’, for example show’s how the slaves had to travel to the riverside to get water each day; in terms of movement, Ailey has used unison to show that these people were all in the same position and were all after the necessities; it represents the idea that the queue for the water each day was huge.

I wanna be ready’ is another song used by Ailey to set the mood and signify an overall message; it stresses just how strong these individuals were to have survived and soldiered through such terrifying and retching conditions. Ailey refers to this work as ‘blood memory’ it is created by using fragments of his Texas childhood, struggling to fit in to a place where he was deemed an outcast. Moreover, ‘Revelations’ creates a narrative of African American release from slavery; it contains waterside baptism and is to some extent very communal.

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Alvin Ailey specifically used folk material to appeal to several audiences. This work allows us to see clear images of class, gender and sexuality. Another huge issue this dance concerned itself with was cultural representation; in particular, a representation of black subjectivity without any query towards issues dealing with gender, class or sexuality. Revelations was a dance that unquestionably challenged its dancers; the dance material was filled with abstract techniques and cultural memory in order to create a persona for black individuals.

Alvin Ailey Cry 1971 was originally intended as a tribute to his mum. It represents black women everywhere and Ailey; it represented women who came from the hardships of slavery, through loosing loved ones and being subjects of severe depression, it is dedicated prominently to mothers and is made up of three sections; in other words it is a depiction of contemporary African American identity.

The dance commences with several gestures, for instance, in terms of costume, the fist dancer to take to the stage is embedded in a white leotard and voluminous white skin, also with a white scarf which appears to be a totem to the gods. In this piece of dance created by Ailey, there is the juxtaposition of posing and undeveloped dance movements; in itself, the dance presents a charged temporal and physical space, dominated by the dancer’s constantly shifting embodiment of roles at functions; throughout this piece, we witness this dancer as a labourer, mother, priest less, slave and lover.

Christopher Bruce’s Swansong explores several themes such as, humiliation, victimisation and undermining emotions; it is based on the interrogation of a prisoner by two guards’. In this piece of work Bruce decided to use unidentifiable clothing which suggests that the characteristics and personas of the dancers are big enough to indentify; this piece also consists of minimal set which allows us to focus more on the actual dances which it too, very minimal. Lastly, the piece consists of minimal lightly to indicate that there is one spotlight which is a window.