Ailey, Alvin. (1931–1989) & de Lavallade, Carmen. (b. 1931) [Rapport, Will]: Blues Suite - Signed Photograph
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Original ca. 1960 Will Rapport photograph of the dancers in performance in Ailey's first masterpiece, signed in black ink by each of the dancers with their names alone. Photographer's stamp to verso. In fine condition. 7 x 5 inches (17.8 x 12.7 cm.).
A remarkable image from an early performance of Blues Suite (sometimes also titled Roots of the Blues) which launched the Ailey company in 1958 and is often documented as the choreographer's first masterpiece. "Ailey's original program note aligned his dance with cultural roots: 'The musical heritage of the southern Negro remains a profound influence on the music of the world...during the dark days the blues sprang full-born from the docks and fields, saloons and bawdy houses...indeed from the very souls of their creators.' The note served to validate the blues milieu for an unintimidated white audience by defining it as both personal (from the soul of their creator) and artful (part of a profoundly influential musical heritage). The reference to the dark days (of southern slavery) neatly telescoped cultural history into the premise for the dance: audiences were invited to view the dancing black bodies as authentic bearers of the blues. Blues Suite intended to map this southern musicality onto the concert dance stage." (Thomas DeFrantz, "Dancing Revelations: Alvin Ailey's Embodiment of African American Culture," p. 38)
The American actress, educator, choreographer, and dancer Carmen de Lavallade studied with Lester Horton, becoming lead dancer of Lester Horton Dance Theater (Los Angeles, California) during her tenure. She left for New York in 1954 with Alvin Ailey, whom she had met and encouraged to begin dancing in high school in Los Angeles. That same year, she made her Broadway debut partnered with Ailey in Truman Capote’s musical, House of Flowers. In 1962, de Lavallade and Ailey embarked on a tour of Southeast Asia as the de Lavallade-Ailey dance company.
From the collection of Paul McMahon, a critic, photographer and artist who worked for more than 13 years touring with Marlene Dietrich as the icon’s stage manager, announcer, dresser, secretary and escort, and later spent 25 years as an arts and entertainment reviewer and photographer with Gay Community News, Esplanade, Tommy’s Connection, The Mirror, Bay Windows and other publications.