Dance Performances - ODETTA



Odetta Holmes – one of the most influential singers of the 20th century – is rediscovered as renowned Ailey dancer Matthew Rushing marries soul-stirring movement to songs by the artist anointed “the queen of American folk music” by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Rushing’s world premiere for Ailey pays tribute to Holmes's life as a singer, songwriter, actress, and civil rights activist. With a musical repertoire encompassing American folk music, blues, jazz, and spirituals, Odetta influenced many key figures of the 1960s folk-revival scene including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Mavis Staples, and Janis Joplin. Her song "Take This Hammer" was included on TIME magazine's list of the All-Time 100 Songs. When President Clinton honored Odetta at the White House with the National Medal of Arts and Humanities, he remarked, “Odetta reminds us all that songs have the power to change the heart and change the world.”

With projections by artist Stephen Alcorn, ODETTA is Matthew Rushing's third ballet created for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater following Acceptance In Surrender (2005), a collaboration with Hope Boykin and Abdur Rahim-Jackson, and Uptown (2010), a celebration of the Harlem Renaissance.

The New York Times has listed ODETTA as one of 100 events in the Fall 2014 season that "have [them] especially excited."

"Last Word: Odetta" - VIDEO The New York Times

Listen to Odetta's 'Freedom Trilogy' performed by Dr. Ysaye M. Barnwell

The creation of ODETTA is supported by commissioning funds from New York City Center.

Major support for this production is provided by American Express.

Generous support has been provided by
Roberta Campbell & Richard Gray, Melinda & Paul Pressler, Daria L. & Eric J. Wallach,
and the Pamela D. Zilly & John H. Schaefer New Works Endowment Fund.

Additional support has been provided by
The Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn & Nicolas Rohatyn New Works Endowment Fund
and The Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey – Sara and Bill Morgan New Works Endowment Fund. ­

Quote from Marianne Williamson’s book A Return To Love, read by Odetta F. Gordon. *   “This Little Light of Mine.” *   “Prettiest Train.”   “Last Word: Odetta.” ^   “Ox Driver Song.”   “John Henry.”   Audio clip of Odetta interviewed by Camille Cosby; audio interview from archival materials  courtesy of The National Visionary Leadership Project;   “There’s a Hole In The Bucket” by Harry Belafonte and Odetta Felious Gordon. Published by Clara Music Publishing Corp. (ASCAP) Clara Music Publishing Corp. Administered by Next Decade Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.*   “Last Word: Odetta.” ^   “Motherless Children.” *   “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child.” *   “Last Word: Odetta.” ^   “Cool Water” by Bob Nolan.   “Masters of War” by Bob Dylan.   “Glory, Glory.” *   “Freedom Trilogy,” musical arrangement by Ysaye M. Barnwell and Seth Farber; vocal performance by Ysaye M. Barnwell and piano performance by Seth Farber.*

* Words and Music by Odetta F. Gordon. Pookie Tree Publishing Co. (ASCAP). Odetta's name, voice, likeness, and biographical information provided courtesy of the Estate of Odetta,
^ Audio from “Last Word: Odetta” interview. Audio provided by T3Media from the interview: “Last Word: Odetta.”

Performance Schedule & Tickets

There are no upcoming performances for this repertory piece.


Assistant(s) to Choreographer

Renee Robinson & Michael Jackson, Jr.


Odetta, Dr. Ysaye M. Barnwell

Sound design

Russell J. Cowans IV

Scenic design

Travis George


Stephen Alcorn

Costume design

Dante Baylor

Lighting design

Andre Vasquez

Listen to a Spotify Playlist inspired by the songs featured in Matthew Rushing’s ODETTA:

Listen to songs by folk musicians who inspired or were influenced by Odetta:

Groups 10+

Group discounting for Ailey at Lincoln Center has begun.
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News & Press

You probably danced on your way into work this morning. Every move you made, down to the rhythm of your steps, had a potential story to tell.
The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater returns to Chicago as part of an 18-city tour.
The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is back in town for its annual season at the Auditorium Theatre, and it has brought with it a new masterpiece: Matthew Rushing’s “Odetta.”