Jordan Levin

Alvin Ailey troupe dances into movie theaters

‘Lincoln Center at the Movies: Great American Dance’ presents Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Ronald K. Brown's ‘Grace.’
‘Lincoln Center at the Movies: Great American Dance’ presents Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Ronald K. Brown's ‘Grace.’

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is one of the most popular dance companies in the world, touring regularly to major theaters across the United States and internationally. But on Thursday the company will have the largest audience in its half-century-plus history, appearing in over 600 U.S. movie theaters as part of the Lincoln Center at the Movies: Great American Dance series.

The screening is part of a growing trend that is bringing films of live opera, theater and Broadway to movie theaters and mainstream audiences. Great American Dance is distributed by Fathom Events, which pioneered the trend with its Live at the Met films of the Metropolitan Opera over a decade ago. Ballet films have been an increasingly successful part of Fathom’s offerings, leading to the Lincoln Center series. The Ailey film will be followed by one of Ballet Hispanico on Nov. 12, and New York City Ballet in George Balanchine's “The Nutcracker,” the definitive version of the holiday classic, on Dec. 5.

Thursday’s movie, which was filmed at a live performance at Lincoln Center last summer, shows the Ailey troupe in its most famous work, founder Alvin Ailey’s beloved Revelations. It also features the company in edgy British ballet choreographer Wayne McGregor’s sleek, urgent Chroma; Ronald K. Brown’s moving Afro-spiritual Grace, an Ailey favorite; and Takademe, an agonized solo by company artistic director Robert Battle, who was raised in Miami and graduated from the New World School of the Arts.

Ailey dancer Jamar Roberts, also a Miami native, performed Takademe and in the Sinner Man section of Revelations that night.

“There’s always pressure onstage to be perfect, but this was extra added pressure, because there about nine cameras shooting you from every angle,” Roberts said from the Ailey company studios in New York this week.

The film allows those who might not be able to afford tickets to the troupe’s regular and frequently sold-out performances in South Florida, which this year take place Feb. 18-21 at Miami’s Adrienne Arsht Center, to see the company up close.

“It’s reaching an even broader audience,” Roberts said. “This company thrives on its history and legacy, and the only way for it to continue is for it to reach out to younger audiences … there’s something about seeing it that close and that big that really feels like watching a performance at a theater.”

If you go

What: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in ‘Lincoln Center at the Movies: Great American Dance.’

Where: South Florida movie theaters.

When: 7 p.m. Thursday.

Cost: $21.26.