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REVELATIONS: The Legacies of Alvin Ailey and Elma Lewis

In partnership with:
With support from: Lowell Institute
Date and time
Wednesday, December 06, 2017

In a turbulent 1968, Celebrity Series of Boston took a chance with a one-night engagement of a dynamic African-American dance company. Choreographer **Alvin Ailey**’s mission to reflect and promote African-American traditions and art-making took hold in Boston that night. Across town that year, Boston arts educator and social activist **Elma Lewis** founded the [National Center of Afro-American Artists](http://ncaaa.org/ "") to enhance appreciation for black art forms and their practitioners. It remains the largest independent Black cultural arts institution in New England.

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Edmund Barry Gaither is the founding Director and Curator of the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists (NCAAA), an organization that he developed from a concept to an institution with collections exceeding three thousand objects and a thirty-two year history of exhibitions celebrating the visual arts heritage of black people worldwide. Gaither is also Special Consultant at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), Boston where he has served as curator for eight exhibitions including a ground breaking show in l970, Afro-American Artists: New York and Boston. A world-wide traveler, Gaither has studied and lectured in Europe, Africa, Russia and the Caribbean. He has published many articles and essays and has been a leader In the Museum field. He was the first president of the African American Museums Association. Gaither headed the national committee that commissioned the bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. for the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. and has consulted to the National Endowment for the Arts. Gaither was educated at Morehouse College, Georgia State University and Brown University. Among his many honors is the Commonwealth Award for Organizational Leadership, Massachusetts’ highest award in the arts. Gaither has received honorary doctorates from Northeastern University, Framingham State College and Rhode Island College.
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OrigiNation is a performing arts organization based in Roxbury that has been serving youth since 1994. Founding Executive and Artistic Director Shaumba-Yandje Dibinga has extensive training, teaching, and performance experience in all areas of dance and theater and has been writing poetry and producing plays for twenty years. She founded OrigiNation, “The Nation that Caters to Youth,” to provide a safe haven for young people to learn the importance of self-respect, health, public speaking, education, self-confidence, job training, and the extent of African influences on various contemporary art forms. OrigiNation, home to four professional youth dance companies, implements initiatives to raise students’ awareness about pertinent social issues and to facilitate their development into well-rounded citizens. It serves 400 youth in house and close to 5,000 through artist-in-residence programs. Shaumba-Yandje has won many awards, including the Boston Fellows Award and Boston NAACP Image Award, and is the author of the book Pride in My Stride.
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In addition to being the Co-founder and Artistic Director of Jean Appolon Expressions (JAE), Jean Appolon is a successful choreographer and master teacher based in Boston and Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Appolon received his earliest training and performance opportunities in Port-au-Prince with the Viviane Gauthier Dance Company and the Folkloric Ballet of Haiti. Appolon continued his dance education in the U.S. at the Harvard and Radcliffe Dance Program (1995-1996, Boston, MA), Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (1996-1998, New York, NY) and the Joffrey American Ballet School (1998-2003, New York, NY), where he graduated with a B.A. from a joint degree program offered by The New School. In addition to the companies and schools listed above, Appolon has also performed with Elma Lewis Productions (Black Nativity), Marlene Silva, North Star Ballet Company (Fairbanks, AK), Black Door Dance Company (Miami, FL), and the Atlantic City Ballet Company. Jean Appolon teaches regularly at Boston Ballet, UMASS Boston and The Dance Complex (Cambridge, MA), among other locations. Beginning in 2006, Appolon conceived and has since directed a free annual summer dance course in Port-au-Prince that serves young, aspiring Haitian dancers who do not have regular access to dance training. Appolon’s vision is to expand the summer course into a year-round dance program based in Port-au-Prince. Appolon’s Boston-based Haitian Contemporary dance company has performed at major venues in Boston and has toured to Washington, DC and Port-au-Prince, Haiti. JAE also has performed at many schools and colleges, including Harvard University, Lesley College and Wheaton College. JAE has been fortunate to share the stage with celebrities such as Danny Glover, Henry Louis Gates and Edwidge Danticat, and to collaborate with community partners such as Central Square Theater and Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción.
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**Sylvia Waters** was personally selected by Alvin Ailey in 1974 as Artistic Director of Ailey II and led the company for 38 years. A graduate of The Juilliard School, Ms. Waters earned a B.S. in Dance prior to moving to Paris, where she appeared regularly on television. She has also performed in Brussels and at the Summer Olympics in Mexico City. In 1968, Ms. Waters joined Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and toured with the Company until assuming leadership of Ailey II. In 1997, she received an honorary doctorate from the State University of New York at Oswego, and she has served as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts. Ms. Waters is a recipient of the Legacy Award as part of the 20th Annual IABD Festival, Syracuse University’s Women of Distinction Award, a Dance Magazine Award, and a “Bessie” Award. Currently, Ms. Waters leads The Ailey Legacy Residency, a lecture, technique and repertory program for college-level students that looks definitively into the history and creative heritage of Alvin Ailey.
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