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

There are no upcoming performances for this repertory piece.



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+

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