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Masazumi Chaya, Associate Artistic Director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Celebrated with Special Performance During His Final New York City Center Season


Associate Artistic Director Masazumi Chaya with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater behind the scenes of Alvin Ailey’s The River.  Photo by Lois Greenfield

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has announced programming for a historic night at Ailey celebrating Associate Artistic Director Masazumi Chaya on Sunday, December 22nd at 7:30pm at New York City Center. Previously, Robert Battle, Artistic Director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, shared the news that the Company’s beloved mainstay for nearly five decades, Mr. Chaya, intends to retire on January 5, 2020, at the conclusion of the Company’s New York City Center season. Having joined the Company in 1972 as a dancer, Mr. Chaya performed under Mr. Ailey’s direction for 15 years, subsequently assumed responsibility for rehearsing the Company—a role for which Mr. Ailey had cultivated him—and for more than 28 years, as Associate Artistic Director, has maintained the repertoire, handled innumerable creative decisions, and guided generations of the Company’s dancers.

The one-night only performance commemorating Mr. Chaya’s years of dedication to upholding Alvin Ailey’s vision, will include special appearances by beloved figures in Ailey history Carmen de Lavallade, Judith JamisonSylvia Waters, and Donna Wood. A piece d’occasion entitled The Best is Yet to Come created by Matthew Rushing  will grace the stage featuring former Ailey stars Sarita Allen, Guillermo Asca, Elizabeth Roxas Dobrish, Tracy Inman, Christopher Jackson,  Aubrey Lynch, Amos J. Machanic Jr., Troy Powell, Renee Robinson, Michael Thomas, and Nasha Thomas. Over a dozen excerpts that highlight Mr. Chaya’s extensive career will be performed by former company members, including Kirven Douthit-Boyd in Minus 16; Linda-Denise Fisher-Harrell, Bernard Gaddis, Amos J. Machanic Jr.,and Renee Robinson in Revelations; Aubrey Lynch in The River; Alicia Graf Mack and Antonio Douthit-Boyd in Night Creature; Rachel McLaren in The Winter in Lisbon; Ailey II Artistic Director Troy Powell in Suite Otis; Matthew Rushing in Grace; and Dwana Adiaha Smallwood in Love Stories; and moreFor full cast and programming, please visit here

Earlier in the season, on Monday, December 9 at 7:30pm, Mr. Chaya will receive the prestigious Dance Magazine Award during a ceremony at the Ailey Citigroup Theater. He will join the list of  living legends honored for their lasting impact on the world of dance.

Robert Battle said, “Masazumi Chaya is a phenomenon. For almost 50 years he has been a conduit for the vision and legacy of Alvin Ailey. To the dance community he is a much-loved marvel. To us he is a direct connection to Mr. Ailey whose creativity and generosity he has shared, while supporting the artistry of countless choreographers and dancers. I am forever grateful to Chaya for being a guide and support to me as only the 3rd Artistic Director and we feel enormously fortunate that he intends to stay with us working to preserve the company’s Artistic legacy, after his run as Associate Artistic Director.”

“Chaya is the lighthouse in a storm of creativity who has lovingly helped us rise to many challenges and shepherd Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater through 5 decades of history-making with his talent as a dancer, rehearsal director and Associate Artistic Director to me and Robert Battle,” shared Artistic Director Emerita Judith Jamison.  “Shining brightly through Chaya’s work is the love for the art of dance, and the man that created a space for him to fully embrace it. He is my dear friend, a caretaker to the work of many choreographers and a mentor to generations of dancers.”

Speaking of the inspiration he gained from Mr. Ailey, and of his own work in transmitting it to those who followed, Mr. Chaya said, “Everything he did came from his humanity. Never from seeking his own gain, never from a desire for fame. None of that. It’s what kept me here all this time, working in a creative form. I have had such a great time, and I wanted young people to have this same experience. It should not just be mine.”

Masazumi Chaya was born in Fukuoka, Japan, where he began his training in classical ballet. After a period of performing as a dancer on Japanese television, he came to New York City in December 1970 and eventually gained a position with the Richard Englund Dance Repertory Company (which later became American Ballet Theater II). In 1972, with his close friend Michihiko Oka, Mr. Chaya joined Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. He danced with the Company for 15 years and upon his retirement from performing, in 1986, was tapped by Mr. Ailey to serve as Assistant to the Rehearsal Director. Mr. Ailey named him Rehearsal Director in 1988. After Judith Jamison became Artistic Director of the Company, she appointed Mr. Chaya Associate Artistic Director, the post in which he has provided invaluable creative assistance in all areas of the Company’s operations since 1991.

Upon Mr. Chaya’s retirement, veteran Ailey dancer and Rehearsal Director Matthew Rushing will assume the title of Associate Artistic Director. Long-term Ailey associate Ronni Favors will step into the role of Rehearsal Director, continuing the Ailey tradition of thoughtful planning during leadership transitions when passing the creative torch.

After leaving his current position, Mr. Chaya will continue to be a caretaker of the Ailey legacy in a number of ways, including organizing the Company’s archive of recorded performances, creating official resource guides for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater repertory. Importantly, he announced that he will launch and lead the Alvin Ailey Choreographic Legacy Project – a formalized licensing project that will bring ballets by Alvin Ailey into the repertoires of other dance companies around the world.

“It is a great joy to share the genius of Alvin Ailey’s choreography with other companies so that it reaches and inspires even more people around the world,” Mr. Chaya said. “I’m excited to begin a new role that will help keep his flame burning brightly, after celebrating my final New York City Center season as Associate Artistic Director with Ailey’s wonderful dancers and audiences.”

The 2019 City Center season of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will run from December 4 through January 5. Full programming information can be found here.

About the Author

New York Trend is a weekly news publication that focuses on issues and lifestyles of the African & Caribbean American communities throughout the New York metropolitan area and Nassau and Suffolk Counties of Long Island. It is a respected and well recognized news publication that has been in existence since 1989. Owner, Publisher and Executive Director, Dr. Teresa Taylor Williams has been at the helm of this award-winning publication since its inception. New York Trend continues to be the only black woman-owned, metropolitan newspaper in New York and Long island. New York Trend is the largest black-owned newspaper throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties.

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