By Roderick K. Hawkins

I’ve had a longtime love affair with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. A little more than 20 years ago, this dynamic ensemble made its way to Baton Rouge, Louisiana—my home town—and performed on the campus of Southern University. I was a junior in high school at the time. Even though I was very much a typical teenager who devoted his attention to pursuing popularity, school activities, and socializing, witnessing the beauty of Alvin Ailey literally changed my life.

From the moment they took the stage, these striking, talented and spirited dancers held my attention. I never really fully appreciated the power for dance until I saw the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. I still can’t put into words how I felt when the company performed “Revelations.” What I did know was that, once the performance ended, I would have to see this ensemble again.
Fast forward to 2013 and, as I look around my house, there are elements of Ailey all around. Among my Ailey treasures are: program books from the last several years of Chicago engagements; a framed poster of Judith Jamison performing “Cry”; Alvin Ailey’s autobiography on my bookshelf; the music of “Revelations” on my iPod; and my annual Ailey tour refrigerator magnets in the kitchen. I think it’s safe to say that my house and my heart are truly Aileyfied.    
For the past few years I’ve had the pleasure of supporting the Auditorium Theatre ofRoosevelt University as an Ailey Ambassador—a member of a group of Chicagoans who are committed to building more audiences for Ailey’s Chicago run. This year is no exception. I’m always thrilled to help drive tickets sales and introduce new audiences to the group that is called the “cultural ambassador to the world.” I feel connected to the Ailey legacy when I reach out to my friends and colleagues and encourage them to support the performances.
From March 8-17 Chicago will be lifted by the dancing spirits that are the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. I am proud to be among that number and happy that so many people from in and around Chicago will join in welcoming the ensemble to our city. All of us who will attend have a connection to Ailey. For some it’s pure entertainment. For others it’s a celebration of beauty and technique. For me, it’s like welcoming a close member of the family for an extended stay. Alvin Ailey has always been an essential part of my quality of life and I am excited that they are, once again, back in Chicago.
Roderick K. Hawkins is the Vice President of External Affairs for the Chicago Urban League and is an Ailey Ambassador for the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University.