Student performers are ‘Alive and Dancing!’

St. Petersburg, 1970. Alvin Ailey’s performance of his own choreography earned him a standing ovation lasting over 20 minutes. On Sunday, “Alive and Dancing!” — a Carnegie Mellon dance production featuring Ailey’s piece “Revelations” — is sure to evoke a similar response.

“Revelations” is a piece of choreography created by Ailey in 1961. The dance reflects Ailey’s childhood experiences growing up as an African-American in Texas and Los Angeles, as well as the African-American struggle from the time of slavery to the civil rights movement. The production, which has been performed all over the world, is said to stir such emotions in its audience that the performance often ends with its viewers standing and cheering, even in countries where this form of appreciation is not the custom, as noted in an article from austin360.com.

This kind of emotional reaction is what inspired senior music theater major Antwayn Hopper to adapt Ailey’s choreography and create “Alive and Dancing!”

“In eighth grade I went to an Alvin Ailey camp in Kansas City, where I first saw ‘Revelations,’ ” Hopper said. “I was in awe. When I heard those spirituals and then saw the words and actions come to life before my eyes with his simple, but very sourceful choreography, I knew I had to somehow pay tribute to him for what he did for me that night.” Hopper and codirector Kara Lindsay, also a senior music theater major, have been running rehearsals with the production’s 23 dancers since October. Although most of the performers are from the School of Drama, the performance includes one student from H&SS and Crystal Williams, a junior in the School of Music, who will be singing a spiritual.

Traditionally, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and his company consisted entirely of African-American dancers, but today both “Revelations” and Ailey’s dance school feature performers of all races. “It is no longer black and white anymore,” Hopper said. “[The dance] is so beautiful and has so much emotion; everyone is accepted.”

“The original choreography was specifically about Ailey’s black roots,” Lindsay said, “[but ‘Revelations’ is a ballet] that everyone and anyone can relate to; its about what we’re all going through. It’s about humanity.”

“Revelations” consists of several different chapters, the first being the time of pilgrims and slaves, when the dancers perform in brown and tan costumes. In the next segment, titled “Take Me to the Water,” the dancers wear white, which symbolizes baptism. The movements are fluid and aerobic. The final segment is a period of living and joy, after the dancers’ souls have been cleansed. The performers wear vibrant colors and dance in a high-energy, athletic style. Hopper emphasized that what separates Ailey’s work from that of other choreographers is his ability to tell a story entirely through dance. “We’re actors,” he said. “That’s why this ballet is really perfect for actors to perform. There is a story to tell in every movement.”

“Alive and Dancing!” will open with introductions by Elizabeth Bradley, the head of the School of Drama, and Jennifer Church, the dean of Student Affairs. The two performances, at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m., will take place in Rangos Ballroom 1 and 2 in the University Center. Tickets are $5 for students.