Written by | Ray Cornelius
In three weeks, dancers from New York City’s famed Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will debut a powerful new ballet on Atlanta’s Fox Theater stage titled “No Longer Silent.” The ensemble work was created by the company’s Artistic Director Robert Battle and pays tribute to the long-forgotten score of Erwin Schulhoff, a Jewish composer whose music was banned by the Nazis and died in a concentration camp in 1942.
In preparation of that February performance, Battle hosted a special conversation and reception on Wednesday night at Atlanta’s National Center for Civil and Human Rights. He was joined by Dr. Lili Baxter, Director of the Weinberg Center for Holocaust Education at the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum and the Center’s new CEO Derreck Kayongo. The panel was moderated by CNN news anchor Fredricka Whitfield.
Battled created “No Longer Silent” in 2007 at the request of The Juilliard School’s Lawrence Rhodes. The piece was part of a concert of choreography for then Juilliard conductor James Conlon, who focused heavily on Jewish composers who were silenced during the Nazi regime. “No Longer Silent” is Battle’s bold and dramatic interpretation of Schulhoff’s life and death and is loosely based on his score “Ogelala.”
“I started listening to his music and then I started reading about his life—the way he lived and the way he died. By looking into his life and looking at his music and getting that score in my hands, I somehow connected with him on a human level. The dance itself is really about my impression of his life. The title ‘No Longer Silent’ came from the idea that these voices are no longer silent through the work that we’re doing and through this work some how,” said Battle.
Battle later confessed to the audience that at the time of its original debut a New York Times critic was very impressed with “No Longer Silent” and thought the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater could “mount the work to great effect.” Ironically, Battle became Artistic Director of the Company in 2011 and is now fulfilling that critic’s prophesy in 2016.
Check out more photos from the discussion below and click here to see a preview of Robert Battle’s “No Longer Silent.”
CNN’s Fredricka Whitfield
Dr. Lili Baxter from Atlanta’s William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum
National Center for Civil and Human Rights CEO Derreck Kayongo
Whitfield with Baxter, Battle and Kayongo
Derreck Kayongo with Camille Love/Sigele Winbush with Kayla Reed
Visual Artist Monica Tookes with Rashana Ali
Ballethnic’s Wavery Lucas and Nina Gilreath/Theo Tyson and Davida Shelby
2016 Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Poster
Ailey Dancer Jacqueline Green with Robert Battle/Ailey Ambassadors
Camille Love reading from Robert Battle‘s new book, “My Story, My Dance”
Keith KNOWS with Monica Tookes/Ailey’s Christopher Zunner
Robert Battle addressing the attendees
Jazz saxophonist Ryan Kilgore with Kayla Reed and Davida Shelby
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater plays ATL’s Fox Theatre 2/10-14, 2016
Photo Credits: RayCornelius.com