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Ailey, Balanchine and a Lesson in Mourning


Since Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater began rolling out its online programming in March, I’ve been waiting for Ailey’s always uplifting “Cry” to make an appearance. It arrived, appropriately, just in time for Mother’s Day. Ailey created this bracing 16-minute solo in 1971 as a birthday present to his mother, dedicating it to “all black women everywhere — especially our mothers.” Through Thursday at 6 p.m. Eastern, the company is presenting a 1972 performance by its original interpreter, the ravishing Judith Jamison, at alvinailey.org. It is still a gift.

Screens have a way of diminishing kinesthetic empathy — our ability to feel, physically, what a dancer might be feeling, to move without moving — but Ms. Jamison’s energy pierces through that barrier, as if she were right there with us. In the images of struggle, liberation and joy that fill the solo’s three sections, every pliant reach of the arm and contraction of the spine remains electrifying.

The performance is just one part of a “Cry” playlist that also includes an in-depth interview with Ms. Jamison and a new video compilation of Ailey women — current and former company members — dancing “Cry” at home. And if you’re hooked, there’s more on YouTube, where you can find the magnetic Deborah Manning, one of many successors in the role, dancing it in full.

Taking dance class in your living room has its hazards and limitations: bumping into furniture, disturbing your downstairs neighbors. But this era of online instruction also brings new freedoms, like the ability to take classes with teachers thousands of miles away.

On a recent Sunday afternoon in Brooklyn, I pushed aside my coffee table and tuned in to a Zoom class with Larry Arrington, a dancer, choreographer and astrologer in the Bay Area. With her energizing, approachable blend of hip-hop, contemporary dance and aerobics — delivered through short combinations that repeat until the pop song runs out — Ms. Arrington encourages participants to treat class like a dance party and make the choreography their own.

“Remember, you are never doing something ‘wrong,’ you’re just a featured soloist,” she wrote in an introductory email. “It’s not a mistake. It’s a FLOURISH!”

Another piece of advice? “Dress cute, and stay on mute.”

The classes are pay-what-you-can ($1-$100), and registration is required. To register and receive the Zoom link for the next one, Sunday at 1 p.m. Eastern, Venmo your donation to @Larry-Arrington-1.

For the fourth week of its resilient digital spring season, New York City Ballet has put together a vibrant sampler of George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins: a little of this ballet, a little of that one. The selection, excerpted from recent performances, includes “Spring” from Robbins’s “Four Seasons,” starring Sara Mearns and Tyler Angle; “Theme and Variations” from Balanchine’s “Divertimento No. 15”; Robbins’s “Afternoon of a Faun,” with Sterling Hyltin and Joseph Gordon; “Phlegmatic” from “The Four Temperaments,” featuring Ask la Cour; and “Rondo” from the rollicking “Western Symphony.” The program will stream from Tuesday at 8 p.m. Eastern to Friday at 8 p.m.

On Thursday at 6 p.m. Eastern, the principal dancer Adrian Danchig-Waring offers a more interactive way into “The Four Temperaments,” one of Balanchine’s signature, stripped-down “leotard ballets,” set to Paul Hindemith’s intoxicating score. In a free 45-minute workshop for adults and young adults, Mr. Danchig-Waring will lead a ballet warm-up and teach a movement combination inspired by the 1946 classic. To register, visit balletessentials.nycballet.com.

A few weeks ago, Danspace Project posted two recorded events on its website for just 24 hours each: “mmm,” a presentation by the dance artist and hospice nurse Devynn Emory; and “Slowness: A Conversation Between Tina Campt, Saidiya Hartman, Simone Leigh, and Okwui Okpokwasili,” a virtual gathering of artists and scholars. Given how directly they both speak to the challenges of our moment — confronting loss, processing grief, slowing down — one day wasn’t enough. Both are now back at danspaceproject.org and are there to stay.

The poignant “mmm,” in particular, treats death and dying with deep and attentive sensitivity. Through spoken text and video, Emory (who uses the pronoun “they”) remembers people they met in their role as a nurse providing end-of-life care. “Each person I’m about to speak of I had an intimate connection with,” Emory says, “the through line being that my hands were on their bodies the moment they left this plane.”

Emory describes each of these “collaborative duets” in words before sharing footage of a “movement meditation memorial” created in each patient’s honor. This movement practice provides a way to work through grief, in all its messiness: as Emory puts it, “to be an off-balance body, to be a weighted body,” a body that allows itself “to not know what’s happening next.”



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