AAADT’s Michael Jackson Jr. (Photos by Dario Calmese)

Modern Black

Alvin Ailey dancer embraces the Black queerness in new piece

RICH LOPEZ | Staff writer

Members of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.(Photos by Dario Calmese)

If it wasn’t for his time with Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Michael Jackson Jr. (not to be confused with the singer) said he might not have been prepared for his tenure at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. So to come back to Dallas this weekend brings up some truly poignant feelings for the dancer.

Alvin Ailey ADT gives three performances Saturday and Sunday, April 22-23, at the Music Hall at Fair Park as part of TITAS/DANCE UNBOUND season.

“It’s a full circle even if it does make me feel a little old,” Jackson said with a laugh. “But Dallas Black really prepared me for Ailey because of the similarities of the Black dance world there are.”

Jackson was with Dallas Black for two years when he was in his early 20s. That was also the first company of modern dance he had ever danced with after years of performing ballet. Like Ailey now, the dancer loves the expression Black dance offers audiences.

“It’s a style of its own with the music and choreography and the stories,” he said. “We dance about slavery and the racism of the past but also to honor our heroes like Martin and Mandela. Transitioning from the Dallas stage to a New York stage for Ailey was easy because of that experience.”

Now in his 11th season with Ailey, Jackson is finding that the dance vocabulary that mixes Blackness with queerness is expanding.

“In my first year, well even at Dallas Black, we had to be this hypermasculine image, married to the idea of a Black man,” he said. “It was always most important to show this manly type of strength. But now, I see the Black dance world is opening up more to our stories.”

What a Black man looks like onstage now is changing, and the notion reminds Jackson of something Ailey was famous for saying: “We are a mirror to the world, showing the people what they see every day.”

Now Jackson is doing just that.

Among the repertoire for this weekend is “Are You in Your Feelings?” choreographed by Kyle Abraham and being performed Saturday and Sunday evening.

Robert Battle, Matthew Rushing, Ronni Favors and members of the company. (Photos by Dario Calmese)

“I do a gay duet in that piece, and I can only think, ‘This is the story I should be telling.’ Being able to touch another man and create this love story for Ailey has made me so happy,” Jackson said.

Ailey himself identified as gay, but Jackson said the company often kept to the aesthetics of hetero dynamics.

“In the last two years, I’d say, the representation is finally showing. The regular hetero notions are valid, but now we’re seeing the gay ones are as well,” he said.

With 20-plus years in the dance world, this moment is certainly not lost on the dancer.

“To reach this point, I’m so proud and honored. I’ve done so much in my career, and I give myself grace for that. But I want the world to see the real me dancing and dancing with people who are like myself.”

Performances will also include Roy’s Joy by Twyla Tharp and Survivors by Ailey and Mary Barnett (Saturday matinee only), In a Sentimental Mood by Jamar Roberts, pause, DUET by Paul Taylor (Saturday evening and Sunday only) and Revelations by Ailey (all performances). Visit for tickets.