Identify the aural setting in Ailey’s revelations 1960. How does the music help to communicate the themes found in the work and enhance movement content? Alvin Ailey uses traditional gospel and spirituals as his accompaniment. The music is reflective of the themes within Revelations in that they are working songs of oppressed African Americans, sad and joyful, but all the while hopeful. This mirrors the attitudes of African Americans when racism was accepted. The dance has 3 sections and 10 sub-sections. The subsection can be identified by the change of accompaniment and seems to show a different aspect to the oppressed community.
The movement starts at the same time as the music. The dancers slowly move into a deep plie in second with the left arm reaching out to the side and palm facing the audience. The right arm is arched and the elbow elevated. The pitch rises and so do the dancers. As the line “I’ve been buked and I’ve been scorned” is repeated so is the motif, however this time it is inverted so as it is the right arm reached out and the left arm arched. Te pitch rises again and the dancers rise with it to standing with their arms extended upwards and their fingers spread out. Their focus is up, suggesting they are reaching out to god.
The first section is in synchronisation showing how it is not just one African American being “buked”, “scorned” or “talked about” but an entire community. The sense of community is reinforced by fact they are all dressed similarly. A motif that is repeated throughout bares resemblance to a bird. A symbol freedom – a recurring theme in Ailey’s Revelations. A brief moment is seen in the first subsection – where the dancers break away from the tight formation and precise synchronisation and go into spontaneous looking duets and solos In the mean time the previously religious lyrics change to “there is trouble all over this world... . As the lyrics return to “I’ve been buked” a strong sense of community is established.
The lyrics change and the tempo increases as the dancers break away again into frantic individual miming of being trapped. They support each other and counter balance maintaining the sense of community and eventually all return to synchronisation, before repeating the “bird” motif together. The Lyrics “I’ve been buked” are repeated again and so is the opening giving a sense that they are not getting anywhere yet as a community in their fight against prejudice. The next section is more up tempo and rhythmic trio .
It has a hopeful feel to it, mirrored into he lyrics to “Didn’t my lord deliver Daniel”; a gospel song about a bible story, in which a young man put his faith in god in lions den and succeeded. Movements are to the beat of a heavy drum, as if they are ready to fight against prejudice. The male dancer uses upper body contractions to the beat followed by variations of the previous bird motif, indicating that the ideas and themes. As the vocals go into a female soloist with other voices harmonising behind we see three separate phrases that join together on the floor again as the singing joins.
This is pattern is recurring. As the female soloist harmonises in very high pitch we see elevated movements from the dancers such as jumps, out stretched arm and leg lifts. This is arguably a symbol of how the African American community are gradually gaining a higher place in society “Fix me Jesus” is a duet between a male and female dancer. The accompaniment is a prodomenantly female vocalist supported by a male singer who repeats her lyrics. The mirrors the relationship of the dancers, as he is acting as a guardian angel rather than a lover.
This is seen in that he avoids using his ads to hold her rather straightened arms she can support herself on. In addition to the bird motif, a crucifix motif is seen here. This links in with the song because of its religious connotations. Both dancers bend towards the ground and focus on there out stretched, down facing, outside hand as it trembles as the vocalists voice does. This depicts the pain and anguish of individuals in the community. This section ends with the female in and arabesque on the male dancers knee without stretched hands as thought reaching out for help.
A recurring motif through the whole dance. Section Two A, the Processional has a really positive feel to it and shows an insight in to the community. It depicts them all arriving at the water ready for a baptism. The scene is set through use of props, banners symbolising bull rushes and reeds and a parasol. The dancers are dressed in slightly more flamboyant white dresses yet a are still unified. The music is more heavily footed in African Caribbean style, as are the pelvic isolations and body contractions. The beat in this section builds up as more percussion is added.
Similarly, dancers gradually feed on to the stage as the levels of percussion increase. The dancers walk, isolating their hips down stage Right then break off into trios as they rise and fall with the syncopating drum. E. g. with steps, turns, leg lifts and back bends. Many phrases are repeatedly seen, mirroring the repetitive percussion. This possible shows how the ceremony’s are well established within the community. The introduction of quick paced vocals result in the spinning one of the priestess figure and two members on community.
The dynamic of the movement is quick and excited as they prepare to be cleansed in the water. The lyrics “I prayed all day.... ”, and “Midnight dew” are paired with literal gestures demonstrating the baptism. Wade in the Water is again quite literal. We see the dancers moving with deep lunges and pushing water out the way as they move down stage. The priestess figure command the movement of the two dancers and show’s status and control as she bathes them in the water. In syncronisation, and to the beat of the drum the trio ripple their hands in to the water.
Body ripples of one form or another are seen repeatedly through section two – a suggestion of setting. The community members go into a duet, with ripples and upper body contractions. The smooth rippling dynamic to some of the moves are again an indication of setting and water whereas the more violent ones are as though God’ s sprit is passing through them. (Common in Gospel Churches) The Duo leap across stage and go into floor work, with an out stretched arm. Indicating being joyous at pushing sins away.
The section ends with the male dancer carrying out the convulsing female dancer (From the spirit of god) escorted by the priestess and another member of the service. In contrast “I wanna be ready” has a much more melancholic dynamic. However it does follow the repetitious patterns we have seen throughout. It has a triadic structure and shows the soloist testing his faith as each time a motif is repeated it grows. Every time the solo singer sings” ready to put on my long white robe” The dancer reaches behind and brings each arm back around as though putting on a robe.
The dancer breaks the first wall and interacts directly with the audience through focus and his gesture out to them. This is because in the music lyrics go “I’ll tell you the reason why” and the dancer is complying wit that and reaching out to the audience to share the story. The robe motif occurs again, varied at first sing his left leg and arm together, circling round his body. Then the original is repeated again with the lyrics. The gear shifts again. To a more angry Dynamic of “sinner man” It opens with the lyrics “Run! Run! Run! ” and the trio of men do just that!
The dynamic is strong and almost battle like, complying with the strong male voice and choral singing in the back ground The women enter, dressed in “Sunday best” extravagant yellow dresses with fanes. It is though they are feeding out of church and gossiping. The music is slow and melancholoy, the movements from dancers mirror this and give the impression with exhaustion from fighting and heat from the physical setting of Deep South America. The lyrics “the day is past and gone”, fine clothing and lack of urgency in movement shows how they finally have the respect from the rest of society and that the days when they didn’t are gone.
The women on stage are seated and by using their fans to the beat of the now up tempo music creates a fast, celebratory dynamic. Demonstrating how strong they are a community unit now they have come out of oppression. The women omit a strong sense of power through their use of fan, stern facia expressions and attitude to the men as they are joined by them on stage. The final section to the Dance “Rock My should in the bosom of Abraham” is extremely celebratory and joyous. Arm movements from the water section are repeated with the fans.
Dancers used outstretched arms, high kicks and glad expressions. Energy is high and dynamic is powerful but if s confident way as opposed to fighting way as before showing real progress I conclusion, Ailey’s choice of accompaniment which he has said was present from the very first rehearsal and was a starting point for choreography successfully demonstrates the many levels to the oppression African American’s suffered and strongly represents their culture and history through bible stories, gospel music’s and African Caribbean roots.