Dance Performances - The River

About The River


By turns muscular and lyrical, The River is a sweeping full-company work that suggests tumbling rapids and meandering streams on a journey to the sea. Ailey’s allegory of birth, life and rebirth abounds with water references, from the spinning “Vortex” solo to the romantic “Lake” duet, and from the powerful “Falls” quartet to the joyful “Giggling Rapids.” The choreography demonstrates Ailey’s admiration for classical ballet, but retains the modern and jazz influences found in all his work. “The River shows Mr. Ailey at his inventive best,” declared The New York Times.

The grandeur of the dancing is matched by the music, which was Duke Ellington’s first symphonic score written for dance. Ailey and Ellington collaborated closely on the piece.

This new production has been restaged by Associate Artistic Director Masazumi Chaya, the foremost living expert on Ailey’s repertory. He believes that the ballet feels fresh each time around because “each audience member can make a story of their own from The River. Alvin was very clever; he created something that can be applied to one’s entire life — birth, a relationship with a child, or even one’s impression of a flower. It is what the audience makes of it. It is what it means to the individual.”

Performance Schedule & Tickets

Jul 14

Jul 18

Jul 24

Jul 30



Masazumi Chaya


Original Score by Duke Ellington ("The River"); Original Music Coordination by Martha Johnson


A. Christina Giannini


Chenault Spence

First Performance

First performed by American Ballet Theatre in 1970; First Ailey performance in 1976

Run Time

34 minutes

Musical Style

Groups 10+

Groups can pre-order and save on Ailey at Lincoln Center, June 10-21.
Learn More

NYCC general


Donate Now

Help develop and expand Ailey's artistic, cultural and educational programs.Learn More


Shop 2014

Explore the new collection of merchandise.
Learn More

NYCC general


Sign-Up for News

Sign-up for Ailey news and special offers, information on classes, fitness tips, behind-the-scenes images and interviews, and more.Sign-Up

News & Press

Alvin Ailey dancer Alicia Graf Mack takes us behind the scenes of her solo in "The River," one of the late choreographer's most notable works.
When producers Kenny "Dope" Gonzales and Louie Vega formed Masters at Work in 1990, they proceeded to creature a catalog that contains some of house music's most recognizable classics. Such is the case when two great creative minds come together to collaborate. It seemed that from the time Alvin Ailey hit the streets of The Big Apple in 1954, he and Duke Ellington's paths were destined to meet.