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03 Mar 2020

Legendary Leaps: The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Returns to the McCallum

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Chalvar Monteiro in Alvin Ailey's Revelations. Chalvar Monteiro in Alvin Ailey's Revelations. Paul Kolnik

Chalvar Monteiro was 11 years old when he first saw the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. One of his four sisters worked at a performing-arts center in New Jersey, and he came away marveling at “not only seeing beautiful dance, but brown bodies doing classical dance. At the time, dance couldn’t be a career for a black man or woman.”

He’s now in his fifth year with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, which is on a 21-city tour that will come to the McCallum Theatre on Wednesday, March 25.

The program includes one world premiere, “Ounce of Faith,” by Darrell Grand Moultrie.

“It’s an abstracted way of paying tribute to the people who invested in him,” says Monteiro (@chlvrmntro on Instagram). “His direction to us was to think of the person who started us on our way in our dance careers.”

The dance is particularly meaningful to Monteiro, he says.

“I had four sisters. Growing up, I always wanted to dance, but money was tight,” he says.

Most of his extracurricular activities were centered on the Baptist Church, but after seeing the Ailey dancers, he began training in earnest. He spent several years performing ballet with other companies—but auditioned for Ailey every year.

“Six years later, I was invited to join the second company (of Ailey),” he says. The seventh try proved successful, and he was invited to join the main company.

“It was a loooooong journey,” he says.

“Revelations,” a ballet created by Ailey in 1960 when he was only 29, has become a staple of the company’s repertory; it also will be performed at the McCallum. It uses African-American spiritual music and tells the story of the black American experience in 36 minutes.

“‘Revelations’ is super, super special,” Monteiro says. “Growing up in a Baptist Church, there’s a lot I relate to. It’s cathartic. It celebrates humanity and the history of black folks in this country, highlighting humanity and how it could be if and when we all come together.”

The third ballet on the program is Jessica Lang’s “EN,” created in 2018 and described by the company as “a deeply personal reflection on the universal themes of passing time and returning to our roots.”

Monteiro is in all three works. He performs six to eight times a week, sometimes in as many as three cities each week. How does an athlete like a ballet dancer deal with all that travel?

“The biggest thing to ensure success is to make sure you’re getting a lot of rest and a lot of water,” he says. “Most people in the company do cross-training—weights, swimming and yoga. You’re constantly challenging your body and changing your regimen based on the dances you’re performing.

“Not only that,” he adds, “I have a good spiritual practice, and a support system on the road as well as at home to keep myself grounded. I read and journal every day as we travel. I’m more of an introverted type of guy. I find peace and solace in budgeting my energy.”

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater presents an evening of dance that includes the world premiere of “Ounce of Faith,” by Darrell Grand Moultrie, and two of the company’s repertory standards: Jessica Lang’s “EN” and Ailey’s most famous ballet, “Revelations.” It takes place at 8 p.m., Wednesday, March 25, at the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, in Palm Desert. Tickets are $70 to $120. For tickets and more information, call 760-340-2787, or visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.

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