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Choreographer Rennie Harris on channeling Ailey


Rennie Harris was tapped by Robert Battle, Ailey Artistic Director, to choreograph a piece about Ailey for the 60th anniversary of the company. To prepare, the two reviewed archival footage of Ailey discussing his process. “I just sit there and watch to find out what made Mr. Ailey, Mr. Ailey,” said Harris.


(instructor marking beats) - Yeah? So you're pulling that weight over to the left, left, and then, right, right.

Five, six, seven, eight, (instructor marking beats) five, six, seven, eight.

- [Rennie] Robert Battle, just called me out of the blue and said, I want you to come and do a piece about Mr. Ailey for the 60th anniversary of the company.

- [Instructor] Six, seven, eight, go off the floor.

(instructor marking beats) - Six, seven, and eight.

And step, tap, step, tap, step, tap.

(instructor marking beats) Yeah, yes.

- The history of Ailey is off the scale, you know what I mean?

How do you present something like 60 years?

- I always felt that dance was a natural part of what I wanted to express, that what I could do with my body, was a part, a very important part of me and a way to release some of those things in myself that I had been looking for.

- There he is.

(operatic singing) ♪ Where are you going to run to? ♪ ♪ Run, run, run, run ♪ ♪ Run to the rock ♪ ♪ Run, won't you hide me? ♪ ♪ Run to the rock ♪ - Dude, please play that again.

(keyboard clicks) - I'm Alvin Ailey.

I'm a choreographer.

I create movement, and I'm searching for truth in movement.

For dance, to me, is a part- - [Rennie] I just sit there and watch, to find out what made Mr. Ailey, Mr. Ailey.

- [Ailey] I've choreographed for many kinds of- (somber orchestral music)


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