Choreographer Jessica Lang on “EN,” a world premiere for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Choreographer Jessica Lang on “EN,” a world premiere for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

By Serena S.Y. Hsu

Published on June 13, 2018
Photo: Serena S.Y. Hsu via ZUMA Press

A Ballet of Memories – And the Love Story Behind It

June 13 at 7 pm; June 16 at 8 pm

World Premiere “EN” for the “Celebrate Women” Series Performed by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center

Choreography by Jessica Lang / Artistic Director Robert Battle

Music by Jakub Ciupinski / Costume Design by Bradon McDonald

By Serena Hsu


Memories, spirituality, and love encircle Choreographer Jessica Lang’s EN, a Japanese word meaning fate, karma, and destiny. In her interview with the Dance Enthusiast, Lang highlights EN as a journey celebrating her husband, Kanji Segawa, and her intimate connection with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Jessica Lang: EN is both my 100th ballet and my first piece for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, which makes it both a homecoming and a homage to a wonderful company that brought Kanji and I together.

Kanji holds dancer Jacuelin Harris  between his legs. She is a few inches from the floor.
Photo of Kanji Segawa and Jacquelin Harris by Serena S.Y. Hsu via ZUMA Press.

Kanji Segawa: EN’s concept comes from Jessica and my personal story, but it is [also] a mutual message to everyone — universal power is beautiful to feel and live in.

Jessica Lang: Between us, Kanji and I share 20 years full of hope and love and perseverance in careers which are not easy to succeed in. Kanji is my associate, my assistant in all my creations.

Kanji first came to the U.S. through a Japanese government grant to study at Ailey School; my first choreographed ballet (1997) was with Glenn Sims, who would soon become a renowned principal dancer with AADT.

Linda Celeste Sims is in a back bend while Glenn Allen Sims supports her holding her back by he lays on the ground.
Photo of Linda Celeste Sims and Glenn Allen Sims by Serena S.Y. Hsu via ZUMA Press

1997 was also the year when Kanji and I first met. Twyla Tharp’s company had folded so I was available for a three-month gig, and Kanji was on a summer break from Ailey School, which is how we got to dance together for Igal Perry. I fell in love with Kanji’s sweetness, and it was his dancing and artistry which drew us together.

Two dancers in white. One sits on the floor with his legs straight and scissor-like. The other is in a wide stand behind him. Leaning towards his right bent leg.
Photo of Jeroboam Bozeman and Kanji Segawa by Serena S.Y. Hsu via ZUMA Press

After his Ailey II apprenticeship, Kanji worked as a dancer for Robert Battle at Battleworks, then for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater after Battle became its artistic director.

Three dancers walk towards another dancer lifted in the air. She holds onto one dancer's hands who stands in front of her. Another dancer lifts her by her hips.
Photo of Jacqueline Green (top) and Linda Celeste Sims, Glenn Allen Sims, and Jeroboam Bozeman (bottom l-r) by Serena S.Y. Hsu via ZUMA Press

Jessica Lang: Music was another ‘circle’ between Kanji and I. Music theory [at Julliard] was extremely beneficial for me in presenting the dramatic art of dance. Our closest friendships are with my Julliard friends — we share curiosity, the quest for knowledge, trust. Battle and Sims  — we are all alumni. Battle was our honored speaker at our wedding in 2007.

An ensemble of dancers all in white stand with their arms stretched out to their sides. Heads are down.
Photo of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater by Serena S.Y. Hsu via ZUMA Press

‘EN’ represents how destiny binds time, people and relationships in so many interesting and marvelous ways. We may not initially know why or how, but we continue to discover that our paths are intrinsically connected. . .

A dancer is lifted by another. Her legs stretch into attitude positions.
Photo of Jacqueline Greene and Jeroboam Bozeman by Serena S.Y. Hsu via ZUMA Press

Lang: I approach dance much like a designer will adapt to an interior’s style and colors. My vocabulary is defined by the dancer in the room and tailored to what they are gifted to do. Everything is balanced and nuanced to their bodies, their language of expression.

Jessica Lang is Artistic Director of Jessica Lang Dance, formed in 2011. A critically acclaimed and visionary choreographer, she has created diverse works for national and international companies such as American Ballet Theater, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, National Ballet of Japan, Jacob’s Pillow, and John F. Kennedy Center. She is a 2014 Bessie Award and 2017 Arison Award winner.


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