After dance pioneer Alvin Ailey died in 1989, the future of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater was uncertain. It's difficult to keep a dance company profitable after its founder is long gone – many have tried and failed. But 30 years later, the group is thriving, and decided to celebrate its 60th anniversary and founder by commissioning a new work titled Lazarus.
The company chose choreographer Rennie Harris, who formed the first and longest running hip-hop dance touring company, to create the hour-long piece. Harris is the first artist-in-residence for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and was tasked with creating the first two-act work the company has ever had. His previous contributions to the contemporary dance company include Love Stories and Home.
Harris' first company, Rennie Harris Puremovement, has traveled the world and was chosen to serve as citizen-diplomats for the U.S. Department of State's DanceMotion USA in 2012. The Philadelphia native has also received various awards, including the Herb Alpert Award in the Arts, and was voted one of the most influential people over the past 100 years of Philadelphia history.
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