Barack, Michelle, Sasha and Malia Obama attend Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performance at the Kennedy Center Friday night

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Pool Report #1

02/06/09

POTUS visits the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to see a 50th

anniversary performance by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Short and uneventful motorcade ride, departed South Lawn 7.18pm, arrived

Kennedy Center 7.24pm.

Still photographers were allowed into the theater as POTUS took his seat

for the 7.30 show while the rest of the pool was ushered into a windowless

backstage room to wait out its two and quarter hour duration. Muffled

cheers could be heard when POTUS was introduced. Photographs showed POTUS,

FLOTUS and their daughters, Sasha and Malia, waving at the audience from a

red VIP box decorated with the presidential seal. Photographers described

the reception as “ecstatic”, likening it to those that once greeted The

Beatles.

The Kennedy Center program describes the show as “Alvin Ailey American

Dance Theater At 50 — A Golden Anniversary Celebration”.

“One of America’s cultural ambassadors to the world, Alvin Ailey American

Dance Theater marks its 50th anniversary of bringing African American

cultural expression and the American modern dance tradition to the world’s

stages.”

The show was sold out and tickets cost from $30 to $89.

POTUS had other options at the Kennedy Center on Friday evening. Starting

at the same time in another theater was the premiere of the documentary

film “Ronald Reagan: Rendezvous with Destiny”. The invitation-only event

was preceded by a discussion with hosts Newt and Callista Gingrich,

according to the Kennedy Center website. No word on whether POTUS and the

former House Speaker bumped into each other in the corridor.

Here’s some more from the Kennedy Center website on Alvin Ailey American

Dance Theater and its latest show:

The genius of Alvin Ailey changed forever the perception of American dance;

today, the legacy continues with Judith Jamison’s remarkable vision and the

extraordinary artistry of the Company’s dancers.

For its annual Kennedy Center engagement–part of Modern Masters, the

Center’s celebration of American modern dance–the company presents a week

of five mixed programs featuring two new works as well as Ailey favorites.

Revelations, Alvin Ailey’s “ever-touching” (The Financial Times) and

“always knockout” (The New York Times) signature masterpiece, ends each

program.

A highlight of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s 50th anniversary

celebration is Go in Grace, the eagerly anticipated collaboration between

the Company and Grammy Awardwinning female a cappella ensemble Sweet Honey

In The Rock, performed live on February 3 Opening Night only. Company

member Hope Boykin weaves a gentle, affecting tale of community, family,

and growth that illustrates the African proverb “it takes a village to

raise a child.” To a score of soulful harmonies and intricate rhythms

composed and performed by Sweet Honey In The Rock, Boykin’s powerful

choreography casts the dancers and singers as members of a society who

unite to move a young girl forward in wisdom and grace. Rooted in a deeply

held commitment to create music out of the rich textures of African

American legacy and traditions, Sweet Honey In The Rock possesses a

stunning vocal prowess that captures the multifaceted sounds of blues,

spirituals, traditional gospel hymns, rap, reggae, African chants, hip hop,

ancient lullabies, and jazz improvisation.

With a highly dramatic style, complex partnering, and seamless integration

of classical and modern styles, acclaimed Italian choreographer Mauro

Bigonzetti showcases the Ailey dancers’ emotional intensity and technical

prowess in Festa Barocca.

The engagement also includes a brand new Anniversary Highlights program

that spans each decade of Ailey’s phenomenal career and features excerpts

from many of Alvin Ailey’s most popular and beloved ballets: Blues Suite,

Streams, Choral Dances, Mary Lou’s Mass, The Lark Ascending, Hidden Rites,

Night Creature, Cry, Phases, Landscape, For “Bird” With Love, Caverna

Magica, and Opus McShann.

Otis Redding’s sassy, sizzling music sets the stage for Suite Otis, George

Faison’s playful battle of the sexes.

Alvin Ailey’s searing portrait of oppression, Masekela Langage, draws

parallels between the era of South African apartheid and the race-induced

violence in Chicago during the 1960s.

Ailey’s first masterpiece, Blues Suite, poignantly evokes the sorrow, humor

and humanity of the blues, those heartfelt songs that he called “hymns to

the secular regions of the soul.”

Hans van Manen divides his kinetic Solo among three dancers in a tour de

force work that challenges the Ailey men’s daring agility and grace.

Andrew Ward

White House Correspondent

The Financial Times

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