Friends and fans in the audience paid tribute to Renee Robinson in her farewell performance with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and I was lucky enough to attend. Renee Robinson, a principal dancer for over 3 decades, is the last remaining company member selected by founder Alvin Ailey. She also has the longest tenure in the company’s history, 32 years from 1981-2012. Robinson is also the only dancer to perform under all three Artistic Directors, Alvin Ailey, Judith Jamison and, starting last year, Robert Battle. As a former student at The Ailey School, and a member of Ailey II, Robinson is admired for her radiant performances, mentorship, and sharing the Ailey legacy with generations of performers.
Introduced by artistic director Robert Battle (click here for podcast on introduction) as “an Ailey Classic,” Renee will always be remembered for her grace in Ailey’s most renowned piece “Revelations.” “She held that umbrella high as if it was touched by heaven.” Throughout the entire night’s performances, spotlight was on Robinson. Her bright smile illuminated the entire theater and her presence could not be missed. Her winding hips in “Night Crawlers” and her enthusiastic jumps in ” Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham” could attract anyone, even those unfamiliar with dance in general. She is praised by all the Ailey principal dancers and is looked upon as the lasting connection to Ailey himself.
Renee Robinson, hailing from Washington DC, began her training in classical ballet at the Jones-Haywood School of Ballet. She received two Ford Foundation scholarships to the School of American Ballet and was awarded full scholarships to the Dance Theater of Harlem School and The Ailey School. She has a number of accomplishments in the dance world including two performances at the White House, first in 2003 for the State Dinner in honor of the President of Kenya, Mwai Kibaki, and again in 2010 in a tribute to Judith Jamison. Robinson was recently honored with the prestigious Dance Magazine Award.
Robinson has been an inspiration to many dancers, including myself. Her poise, grace, and excellence in transcending and executing steps is exemplary and one of a kind. She is a role model for all dancers and her legacy will always have a place in the dance world.