Originally performed by the Ailey company in 1992, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar’s Shelter is a passionate statement about the physical and emotional deprivation of homeless people. The Ailey company has typically performed it with either an all-female or all-male cast. It is currently being performed by an all-female cast.
Set to an inventive score which incorporates drumming by Junior “Gabu” Wedderburn and poetry by Hattie Gossett and Laurie Carlos, Shelter delivers the compelling message that the poverty of individuals will inevitably lead to the destitution of all humanity.
"A potent statement on homelessness and displacement [which] speaks pointedly to the present. The work both depicts transience and pushes back at it, through the persevering performances of six dancers. They begin piled on the ground, a heap of bodies that later reappears, uprooting itself and migrating from place to place. Countering these weary moments, they also unleash deep reserves of power, in high, slashing kicks—paired with downward-punching fists—and propulsive, intricately shuddering phrases. New text by Ms. Zollar and Paloma McGregor addressed the endangered home that is our planet, referring to hurricanes Harvey and Irma and other recent events. Ms. Zollar’s (recorded) voice intoned: 'The earth is talking; are you listening? We are talking; are you listening?' At times one dancer fell backward, swiftly caught by the rest. If nowhere else, they found shelter in one another."
–Siobhan Burke, The New York Times, 12/14/17
"The decades-old Shelter may be the work that speaks most strongly to the anxieties of the moment," declared The New York Times about Ailey's new production in the 2017–18 season, which features a revised ending by Ms. Zollar.