Alvin Ailey’s opening gala brought us together in dance, beauty and fashion

Alvin Ailey’s opening gala night was not just a beautiful piece of nostalgia after their return to the stage after two years, but a reminder that COVID had completely ripped me out of my personal sense of style. Although the invitation clearly read “gala,” I constantly found myself second, third, and fourth guessing my choices of outfits, perfumes, lip colors, and shoes. Anyone who knows me personally can attest to the fact that casual clothes are my best friend – mom jeans, an oversized t-shirt and a few kicks are usually my way to go. But don’t let clean air forces fool you; I can assemble a room in a hot second.

For some strange reason, I found myself completely at odds with the idea of ​​what fashion and style means to me. Why do I own this? Would that be okay with me? What was I thinking when I checked out with this in my cart? These were the thoughts swirling around in my head so furiously that impostor syndrome started to set in and I even considered not attending because I didn’t think my wardrobe was high enough . Should I go there? Should I invent an excuse? What if the lighting in my house messed up my makeup and my contour looked horrible when I got there?

I don’t know who needs to hear this, but however comfortable your comfort zone is, challenge yourself to get closer and closer to the edge each day until you’re ready to take that step. . Yes, that also means in fashion.

After rummaging through my closet for about an hour, I settled on this black jumpsuit with a deep V. Basic, but effective. I hadn’t worn this jumpsuit since my cousin’s birthday dinner in 2018 when I was a size 5. I’m now a size 8. Don’t get me wrong, I’m really on this journey of self-love of acceptance and love of my body for all that it is and is not, including the realism of pandemic weight gain through wine, food ordering, and unexplained laziness. After jumping up and down, sucking a few times, and closing the back of the set with my clothes hanger, the first part was over.

I looked in the mirror and started to criticize and self-sabotage. It’s a gala, not Studio 54. If you don’t have anything prettier to wear, don’t go there at all. Shit, girl, why keep these clothes on if you know you can’t put them on anymore? My negative voices started screaming louder and louder, but I wouldn’t let that get in the way of the night I’ve always been looking forward to. I decided to take a page from Chlöe Bailey’s book and give a fuck. Yes, while I may have been underdressed due to the lack of variety in my wardrobe, I was going to walk in with the confidence of the best underdressed millennial in the place. I pulled my faux locs to one side for a cascading effect, put on a new ear cuff with an old Express necklace I had from high school and some minimalist black heels from Aldo to tie the look together . I was far from ready for the gala, but I was perfect for me.

If there was one night for black people to show up and show off on a Wednesday night in town, it would absolutely be Ailey’s gala. Although I may have missed the mark, walking into downtown was what I needed to see that even though I was dressed for a different occasion, my siblings understood the mission. When I found my B5 seat in the orchestra, the audience was already about 85% full with patrons of all ages, races, genders, etc. One thing everyone had in common was that they were all absolutely gorgeous.

As I made my way to my assigned front row seat, I hesitantly began to remove my jacket and turned my back to the audience to avoid the judgment I had created in my head. I was afraid, I admit, to take the jacket off to reveal my bare back because I knew my purchases from the Free 99 closet didn’t live up to the elegance of the room. But, as more and more people came through the doors, I noticed that everyone was at their own pace – and I loved that. One woman entered wearing combat boots and a satiny yellow dress, while another wore a long denim dress with a face beaten by the gods. Some wore luxurious dresses that reminded me of Disney princesses, and others wore high heels with cocktail dresses. Everyone was at their own pace – I was officially starting to like it here.

“Is it better to look good or feel good? I say it’s better to feel good about how you looksaid Robert Battle, Artistic Director of Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre, during his keynote address. At that point, although the talk had nothing to do with my negative self-talk, it was the validation I needed.

It was no surprise that the performance was heartbreaking and emotionally evocative, especially Revelations. “Fix Me, Jesus” and “I Wanna Be Ready” always draw me in every time, but it was time to grab my coat and cross the street to the next spot. I walked over to my assigned table – number 1 – and found myself in the left front corner of the Ziegfeld ballroom. The night was young at 9:00 p.m. and the ballroom was filled with nothing less than beautiful spirits and energy. Again, hesitant to take my coat off, I decided to check it out as there would be no point lugging a heavy peacoat inside in case I wanted to dance or mingle. With my back showing and my V-neck deep enough to reach the top of my usual abs, I slowly started to feel more confident. Not because I was getting compliments or anything of that nature, but it was because I realized no one cared. Everyone was there to celebrate Alvin Ailey’s legacy and be able to speak the love language of physical touch again after 20 long months of ZOOM and only dress from the waist down. The love I felt in the room was heavy and served as a true testament to the beauty of black people and throughout the night I felt reunited with faces old and new in dance, culture and love.

During the gala, I met Pose actor and dancer Ryan Jamaal Swain, who shared his thoughts on the impact of the night with me. Even though it was my first time attending, his kind words really made me feel like I was in the right place with the right people. “Simply, I love us. We really know how to turn pain into beauty. When I say that, I mean we all have [gone] through our episodes of grief, anxiety and bereavement this year – all of us. But it’s in our spirit as black people, in the spirit of fictional kinship, to come out fully regardless. We truly are some of the most beautiful and resilient people out there and I’m so happy to be a part of this community,” Swain passionately shared of his thoughts on the Ailey Gala. As a dancer himself and a proud alumnus of Ailey, Swain praises the company’s “legacy of excellence, service, and true flagship of the dance diaspora,” throughout the years of existence. as evidenced by the magic night.

“With the caveat of staying home and being more connected to myself, I’ve found that my style has really become what I mean to who I’m trying to please,” continued Swain on his personal style reversal. since the start of the pandemic. “Style is the phrase that introduces you before you open your mouth to speak and I learned so much about self-love, authenticity, power and form while I was in the house, deepening my understanding of myself and the world around me that I now believe my style has matured Understanding that I can say a multitude of things in very nuanced and specific ways This is me: sophisticated, fun and powerful .

I also had the pleasure of sharing a table with the Emmy-winning host of View, Sunny Hostin, who had a candid chat with me about her new take on post-pandemic style and how she prioritizes comfort. Hostin described his style as “much higher comfort” as opposed to his usual glamor while the whole kit and caboodle. “If I have to tie my shoes, I don’t want to wear them. Slides are my new heels,” she told me jokingly but seriously.

Following my gala experience, I reached out to rehearsal director Ronni Favors about the importance of the night at hand. Since stepping down from her role as ballet instructor at the inaugural session of AileyCamp in Kansas City in 1989 and artistic director of the camp in 1990, Favors has truly seen the evolution of Ailey II and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. Although she couldn’t attend the party herself because she wanted to be wary of the number of attendees, Favors still gave flowers to Ailey’s growth over the years and her ability to stand tall amid the pandemic in celebration and fellowship.

“It’s about celebrating the African-American cultural experience and making it part of the cultural conversation of our country and the world. The gala is a brilliant kick off for this mission, this reaffirmation of our mission every year,” she told me over the phone. “It’s really about bringing together a mix of people. It was kind of how Alvin [Ailey] lived his life – always interested in people, no matter who you were, where you were from or how much money you made. If you earned a lot, if you earned a little, it didn’t matter, but who are you as a person, and what can be celebrated about you, about your life? »

Throughout the night, as I danced down the center of the floor – and started the Electric Slide, I might add – I realized that this night was not about me, my body insecurities or of my outfit. It was a vibe that could not be recreated or replicated by any other group of people outside of the person I was with. The wine was flowing, the band was raging and singing, and time had passed. Thank you Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater for reminding me of the importance of coming together in dance, style, and camaraderie in times of fear and uncertainty.

TOPICS: Alvin Ailey Alvin Ailey Dance Theater Pose Pose on FX

Colleen D. Ervin