Hello, my name is Solomon Dumas and it brings me much joy to be returning to my hometown of Chicago. I was born and raised in this beautiful city (on the South Side, to be exact). The Auditorium Theatre is where I was first introduced to magical world of the performance arts. I remember my first encounter with the Auditorium. I walked into the theatre and was immediately overwhelmed by its pristine beauty. Prior to that experience, I really don’t remember ever being in an environment so grand. I believe this had to have been in the late ’90s. At that time, Baba Chuck Davis presented his annual season of Dance Africa. I could hardly sit still as I watched the dancers and drummers move at what seemed to be lightning speed. Secretly, I imagined myself on the stage with the performers. Little did I know I would one day be able to dance in this amazing theatre.
2002 was the year I first saw a live performance of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at the Auditorium. The company performed three works that evening. The first work was Caravan by Louis Falco. The second work performed was Following the Subtle Current Upstream by Alonzo King. But what sealed the deal was Ailey’s Revelations. Everything about the performance was magical. Although I had not begun my formal dance education, I was able to identify the versatility and diversity within the company. The dancers seemed to possess these superhuman abilities. That’s when I knew I wanted to become a professional dancer.
Later I attended AileyCamp Chicago, a summer program that helps middle school students reach for their full potential. By high school, dance had become my life, and the Auditorium Theatre had become my window to the world of concert dance. Being a dance mahor at the Chicago Academy for the Arts gave me the privilege of seeing a lot of performance for free. I also had the opportunity to perform in supernumerary roles in The Joffrey Ballet’s productions of Romeo and Juliet and Petrushka. Those opportunities gave me an up close and personal look into a professional dancer’s work process, confirming my need to explore how far I could go.
Now that I’ve become a member of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, I can safely say that I have yet to perform in a theatre as beautiful as the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago.
Our Artistic Director, Robert Battle, has expanded Ailey’s legacy of diversity within the Company’s repertoire. Mr. Battle is providing opportunities for evolving and emerging choreographers that he feels are pushing boundaries or that honor the tradition of social justice. With that being said, we have some exciting premieres and new productions, including Walking Mad by Johan Inger, set to Ravel’s “Bolero,” and Untitled America, by MacArthur “Genius” Fellow Kyle Abraham, which examines the impact of mass incarceration on African-American families. Another work I am excited to perform in a revival of Billy Wilson’s The Winter in Lisbon. This work is sure to lift your spirits and maybe make you chuckle. It is a sexy work choreographed to the smooth sounds of Dizzy Gillespie. The piece is definitely a feast for your senses. The finale is my favorite movement. Obviously the dancers have a ball onstage, and the energy is infectious. It is important to have celebratory works to uplift us, if only in fleeting moments, from the stresses of our day-to-day lives. After all, isn’t that one of the reasons why we come to the theatre?