Last week, I wrote in my blog of my special history with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. I mentioned that to celebrate my last time presenting the company, I was given a Revelations stool as a gift. I did not mention that I also received via email a photograph showing Calvin Hunt, Senior Director of Performance and Production, and E.J. Corrigan, Technical Director, holding out the stool to me. They were their typically sweet, goofy, loving selves as they offered me their very special gift.
Last week, while the company was touring in California, first E.J. and then Calvin passed away. It was a one-two punch that no one who is part of the Ailey family can understand.
These were two of the smartest, kindest, most dedicated men I have known. Their commitment to the Ailey organization was unrivaled.
When I joined Ailey in 1991, Calvin took me under his wing. He told me the history of Ailey, told me about working with Mr. Ailey (who had passed away the year before), and invited me on tour with his crew: E.J., David, Phyllis, Dan, Neil, Zorba. The hardest working group of arts professionals, and the most diverse, in the profession. On tour, the crew would arrive at the theater at 7 in the morning, meet the local stagehands, load the show into the theater, set up the lights and sets and costumes and dance floor, prepare for an afternoon rehearsal and then run the show at night. After the performance, they would load out of the theater, put everything back on trucks and ride a tour bus to the next city where it would all happen again. And again. And again. The few weeks I spent on tour with the crew were the most exhausting, and the most exhilarating, of my life.
The tour bus was our refuge. We drank and played games and ate bad food and talked and talked, deep into the night. We got to know each other extremely well. The camaraderie was heightened by a common mission -- we all believed in the work of the Ailey company. We all took joy every night when Revelations ended the program and the audience stood and cheered and demanded an encore. (Even though we knew the encore delayed our exit from the theater.) Calvin ensured that everyone behaved and E.J. ensured that everyone laughed.
Every once in a while we stayed in a city for a few days, or even a week, as we did in Boston or Washington or Berkeley. Those were the weeks we savored. We could sleep in a bed, eat better food, have mornings off to roam. E.J. would ride his bicycle everywhere. Calvin and I would always find the best restaurant in town.
It was one of those magical times that most of us who work in the arts have experienced. People working together, playing together.
And now we are all crying together. And remembering our youth, our better selves, our friends.