The revelation of "Revelations"
Sunday, April 18, 2010
“Revelations” was choreographed by Ailey himself 50 years ago to a group of traditional spirituals. It closes the program of just about every Ailey concert--certainly every one I have seen. And today I remembered why.
It is a profoundly moving piece that offers tribute to the African-American experience. The songs begin with the anguish of “I Been ‘Buked” and “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel (...then why not every man)” and end in a triumphant “Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham” that brought down the house this afternoon, as it probably does at every performance.
Today at that ending, I found myself crying. Why? It is a touching piece, no question. But what I was seeing in it today, along with its emotional impact, was the artistic achievement. Here is a work half a century old that still has the power to touch people. What I was thinking as I dabbed my tears and stood applauding was that this work is as close to perfection as anyone could hope to get.
When Ailey died in 1989, “Revelations” was already iconic. He must have died with the satisfaction of knowing that he had created something extraordinary, astounding.
Maybe it isn’t absolute perfection. Someone more knowledgeable than I might point to technical flaws or a dancer here and there having a slightly off day. I don’t know. I do know that this powerful work reminded me of what is important in creating art--striving for what is true and pure enough to take root in the hearts of its audience. I’d consider that perfection.