Revelations

'Revelations' by Alvin Ailey is one of the most beloved and acclaimed modern dance works in history. Learn more about the creation of this enduring work.

Alvin Ailey's RevelationsAiley

Watch Excerpts of 'Revelations'

The beloved masterpiece has enraptured audiences globally with its reverent grace and spiritual elation. Set to Negro spirituals, Revelations pays homage to the cultural heritage of African Americans—“sometimes sorrowful, sometimes jubilant, but always hopeful."

Revelations premiered at the 92NY (formerly 92nd Street YM-YWHA) on January 31, 1960 and after six decades, this American masterpiece has proven to be a cultural landmark in the world of dance, maintaining its astonishing originality and powerful elegance while continuing to enthrall audiences everywhere. This enduring classic explores the emotional spectrum of the human condition, from the deepest grief to the holiest joy.

The ballet was born out of Mr. Ailey's “blood memories” of his childhood in rural Texas and the Baptist Church. Since its premiere, it has been performed continuously around the globe, transcending barriers of faith and nationality. Appealing to universal emotions, Revelations is the most widely seen modern dance work in the world.

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PILGRIM OF SORROW
Alvin Ailey recalled, “I did it chronologically, leading off with the opening part of Revelations,  which was ... about trying to get up out of the ground. The costumes and the set would be colored brown, an earth color, for coming out of the earth, for going into the earth.”

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Alvin Ailey's Revelations (2023) by Tony PowellAiley

I Been 'Buked

As the curtain rises, the dancers stand center stage grouped together under a pool of light, and slowly begin moving their arms, reaching up and out to the music of "I Been 'Buked".

Ailey's Corrin Rachelle Michell, Miranda Quinn, and Christopher Wilson in Alvin Ailey's Revelations (2021) by Paul KolnikAiley

Didn't My Lord Deliver Daniel

This next gospel song features a trio of dancers energetically dashing across the stage. Mr. Ailey noted, "I took all of the songs dealing with Black people’s sorrow and put them in this section."

Ailey's Sarah Daley Perdomo and Jermaine Terry in Alvin Ailey's Revelations (2023) by Tony PowellAiley

Fix Me, Jesus

Closing out the first section of Revelations is a striking duet performed to "Fix Me, Jesus".

TAKE ME TO THE WATER
“The second part [Take Me to the Water] was something that was very close to me—the baptismal, the purification rite. Its colors would be white and pale blue."
- Alvin Ailey

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Alvin Ailey's Revelations (2021) by Paul KolnikAiley

Processional/Honor Honor

In the opening of the second section, the dancers parade across the stage as if they were walking to the river.

Ailey's Solomon Dumas, Khalia Campbell and Samantha Figgins in Alvin Ailey's Revelations (2021) by Paul KolnikAiley

Wade in the Water

"The middle section was to be ‘Wading in the Water.’ Songs such as ‘Honor, Honor’ had all of these extraordinary words. I was moved by what spirituals say as words, as metaphors.”
– Alvin Ailey  

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Christopher Wilson in Alvin Ailey's Revelations (2022) by Paul KolnikAiley

I Wanna Be Ready

This final dance in the "Take Me to the Water" section features a solo male dancer who remains in a spotlight at the center of the stage, his arms reaching up, and each movement lamenting, "I Wanna Be Ready".

MOVE MEMBERS MOVE
“Then there would be the section surrounding the gospel church, the holy rollers and all the church happiness. Its colors would be earth tones, yellow and black.”
-Alvin Ailey 

Ailey's James Gilmer, Patrick Coker and Lloyd Boyd III in Alvin Ailey's Revelations (2021) by Paul KolnikAiley

Sinner Man

Three men run across the stage emulating the words of the song "Oh, sinner man, where you gonna run to?"

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's James Gilmer in Alvin Ailey's Revelations, Paul Kolnik, 2022, From the collection of: Ailey
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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Patrick Coker in Alvin Ailey's Revelations, Paul Kolnik, 2021, From the collection of: Ailey
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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Michael Jackson, Jr. in Alvin Ailey's Revelations, Paul Kolnik, 2017, From the collection of: Ailey
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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Alvin Ailey's Revelations (2021) by Paul KolnikAiley

The Day is Past and Gone

The women are the first to arrive, using their fans to mimic the gossip and chatter on a Sunday morning.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Alvin Ailey's Revelations (2017) by Paul KolnikAiley

You May Run On

“The choirs, congregations, deacons, preachers, and ushers would sing black spirituals and gospel songs. They sang and played the music with such fervor that even as a small child I could not only hear it but almost see it." -Alvin Ailey

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Alvin Ailey's Revelations (2023) by Tony PowellAiley

Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham

The inspiring finale that gets audiences on their feet stomping and clapping every time is "Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham". This final section of Revelations ends on a jubilant high note and is almost always followed by an encore.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Alvin Ailey's Revelations, Christopher Duggan, 2022, From the collection of: Ailey
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