Artistic Director Emerita Judith Jamison pays tribute to the spirit and life of the gifted Olympian Florence Griffith-Joyner, the track and field superstar who died a premature death after a heart seizure at the age of 39. Merging dance athleticism and art, Jamison's work was commissioned by the 2002 Olympic Arts Festival. The ballet received its world premiere during the Company's 2001 City Center season in New York City.
"I was so thrilled when the directors of the 2002 Olympic Arts Festival asked me to create a new ballet," Jamison offered. "We performed at the Olympics in Atlanta. The entire Company appreciated the opportunity to share so much with our country and the world. The Olympics are about bringing athletes from around the world together and Alvin Ailey founded this Company with a dream to unite all people through dance."
Ms. Jamison had been researching facts about FloJo, as she was affectionately known, but said the ballet would not be an autobiographical sketch of her life. "I want to capture her spirit, her beauty," Jamison explained. "FloJo was a gifted athlete and her talents led to great achievements. But she was also a beautiful, glamorous individual and an inspiration to young athletes; that's want I want to portray in the ballet."
Dancers and runners share a unique bond in that their bodies are their instruments, but the end result is not exactly the same. In sports, athletes train a certain way, year after year, for the ultimate triumph - a world championship, a gold medal, a chance to wave atop the victory stand. It is a technical process and the goal is to be the fastest. Dancers, however, are different. They work to achieve an aesthetic beauty through years of specialized training. It is a creative process and dancers learn to use their bodies in ways that are both extraordinary and mundane. Night after night they perform for audiences who show their appreciation with enthusiastic applause and standing ovations.
Jamison's goal in her ballet is to use the beauty of the Ailey dancers to portray the strength and perseverance of FloJo, who is an inspiration to all runners. To accompany the dancers, Jamison asked Wynton Marsalis, a legend of jazz music, to compose the score. Mr. Marsalis also composed the music for Sweet Release, choreographed by Judith Jamison for the Lincoln Center Festival in 1996.