The usher directed me to my balcony seat in the Phillips Center, with a look of “you’d better hurry up,” at 7:34 p.m.
The show was about to begin.
Ominous voices reminded us to silence our cell phones and refrain from flash photography, but all I could see were images of the dancers taking their places behind the curtain. Figuratively see, of course.
I felt their head rolls, hand shakes, final stretches and final prayers. This was just one performance in their worldwide tour, but I knew firsthand that didn’t take away a minutia of the excitement that comes with performing for a live audience. In their case, a live audience who paid a good amount of money just to watch their talents unfold.
This was the first time I would be seeing the action, rather than being it. It made me anxious. I wanted to jump down from the balcony, learn the choreography, and dance alongside them. I was nervous about being a bystander.
That was until the curtain rose and the music began and the dancers began “Toccata,” their first dance of the night. The upbeat jazz music whisked them away into a series of spins, extensions, and glides across the stage. Their white-shirt-black-pants attire and their high-speed intricate choreography combined to evoke the feeling of a bustling New York City street. The men and women weaved around each other in perfect synchronicity, seemingly forgetting to breathe before performing the next series of movements.
An Adonis-and-Aphrodite-like pas de deux brought serenity to the entire performing arts center, reminding me of the moment after it rains. Following the duet was a group routine that put me in a trance. Its athleticism and artistry told such a compelling story, though I don’t know what that was.
After a brief intermission, it was the moment we had all been waiting for. It seemed as though the entire audience sat up in their chair, waiting for Mr. Alvin Ailey’s spirit to tell its story through the dancers. We were about to experience “Revelations.”
“Revelations” tells the story of the last book of the New Testament. We were transported to Judgment Day, Purgatory, Heaven, and Hell through the lighting effects, the African American Gospel music, and, most importantly, the dancers.
I was in the audience, but I felt like so much more than a bystander. I was moved by every lift, extension, and contraction. My eyes followed the subtle movements of the dancers’ hands during their final day.
Dancers of UF, don’t be afraid of the audience. Experiencing the movements of the most elite modern dance company in the entire world taught me that seeing dance from the audience makes you more than a dancer; it makes you an artist.
We are fortunate to go to a school that brings such iconic performances right to our doorstep, and we are missing out if we choose to forgo them because we would prefer to be on the stage.
Change your angle of observation, and watch what happens. Stay up-to-date on the next performances at the Phillips Center here.