Feb. 23 2011 12:00 AM

Alvin Ailey dancers revive 1960 masterpiece

The gospel-driven "Revelations" piece was inspired by the late choreographer Alvin Ailey's reflections on his childhood experiences in the churches of the South. Courtesy Photo
"Revelations" was originally choreographed by Alvin Ailey in 1960, and uses traditional African-American spirituals to explore the sorrow and joy of the soul.

“It’s as much about the technical side of the company as it is about the music,” said Sherri Barr, Michigan State University dance director.

“It opens up the spiritual; there are so many ways to enter the piece.”

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is advertising this as the 50th anniversary of the dance, which the troupe will perform at Wharton Center Tuesday and which remains a signature piece in the company’s repertoire. One of Ailey’s goals with "Revelations" was to make it accessible, and because it doesn’t have this over-intellectualism to it, it does make it easy for the general public to appreciate, Barr said.

"As early as I can remember I was enthralled by the music played and sung in the small black churches in every small town my mother and I lived in," Ailey wrote in his 1995 book, "Revelations: The Autobiography of Alvin Ailey." "No matter where we were during those nomadic years, Sunday was always a churchgoing day."

Ailey incorporated much of the music he heard in those churches into the score of "Revelations."

Barr will give a free lecture at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 1. Cobb Great Hall, Wharton Center. $28-$48; $15 students. (800) WHARTON www.whartoncenter.com