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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Renee Robinson Retires: Beloved Alvin Ailey Star Takes Her Last Bow

Matthew Rushing, left, and Renee Robinson performing in Alvin Ailey’s “Revelations” on November 28th, 2012 at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s fall gala at the New York City Center, in New York. (AP /Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Christopher Duggan)Dancer Renee Robinson stretches, as Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Artistic Director Judith Jamison, right, watches a rehearsal from the wings of the Citigroup Theater in March of 2005 while members of the troupe practice for the official opening of the Joan Weill Center for Dance. (AP/Kathy Willens)First lady Laura Bush meets members of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater during the intermission of their performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington, Tuesday, May 12, 2001. From left artistic director Judith Jamison, associate artistic director Masazumi Chaya, Linda-Denise Evans, Bush, Guillermo Asca, Renee Robinson, Matthew Rushing, Vernard Gilmore, behind right unidentified. (AP/Susan Walsh)Renee Robinson performs the principal role in the dance piece "Grace," during the dress rehearsal for the opening night concert-banquet gala Wednesday, Dec. 1, 1999, at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York. (AP/Samuel W. Elijah)

If you’ve seen the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater perform “Revelations,” about the black church of Ailey’s childhood, you no doubt have seen Renee Robinson. The ending always brings audiences to their feet: Robinson plays the lead gossip among the church ladies, she fans herself furiously in her yellow dress and dances her heart out.

This past weekend, Renee Robinson–the last dancer in the company chosen by the late Ailey who was called “the quintessential Ailey woman” by another company dancer–retired from the stage, after 31 years with the company.

Here & Now’s Lynn Menegon spoke with Robinson in 2007, when the Ailey Company, led at the time by Judith Jamison, was on tour in Boston. Robinson shares how the secret of success, both her’s and the company’s, starts with food.

Robinson has long been the company’s unofficial nutritionist, while E.J. Corrigan, backstage technical director, jokes he’s the “head of morale” in the Ailey company. He says he brings along an upright smoker, two grills and two deep-fat turkey fryers on every company tour, because “we do a lot of cookin’, a lot of grillin’, a lot of smokin'” to keep the dancers primed for performance.

This program was originally broadcast on April 27th, 2007. 

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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