The Lisa Smith Wengler Center for the Arts presents Ailey II

Ailey II's Meagan King. Photo by Nir Arieli.

Merging the spirit and energy of the country’s best early-career dance talent with the passion and creative vision of outstanding emerging and established choreographers, Ailey II returned to the Smothers Theatre stage at Pepperdine University in Malibu on Thursday.

Tickets, priced starting at $22.50 for adults and $10 for full-time Pepperdine students, are available now by calling (310) 506-4522 or visiting the event page at More information about Ailey II is available at

Ailey II Artistic Director Francesca Harper — an internationally renowned performer, choreographer, director, and multi-disciplinary artist — is nurturing new creative voices and propelling the company forward during her inaugural season.

“It is a privilege to return to the home that shaped me as an artist to accept the honor of leading Ailey II into its next era,” Harper said. “Ailey II’s mission lies in generating space for human narratives expressed through the strength, grace, and versatility of the next generation of gifted young dancers. As exemplified in this year’s diverse repertory, I am looking forward to bringing in new choreographic voices and programming works that further an ongoing cultural dialogue and contribute to social transformation.”

The company will perform the pieces “Psukhe,” “Searchlight,” “Takademe,” “Enemy in the Figure,” and “Freedom Series” for their Pepperdine performance.


Andrea Miller, artistic director of Gallim Dance, is known for visceral, imaginative work and her Ailey II debut, “Psūkhe” (pronounced ‘pSEE-hee’) is no exception. This energetic full company work features unexpected partnering and complex solos set to the electronic music of Nicolas Jaar. The title is an Ancient Greek word meaning ‘life’s breath, spirit, and soul’ and is the origin for the English word ‘psyche.’

A group of dancers support a central woman, guiding her on a spiritual quest to find light in Robert Battle’s new work, “Searchlight,” inspired by the relationship of Harper and her late mother, Denise Jefferson. With his signature musical sophistication, Battle juxtaposes the tension of Steve Reich’s “It’s Gonna Rain, Part II” with the healing quality of Renée Fleming and Christoph Eschenbach’s “Nacht Und Träume, D.827,” finding equilibrium between the extremes just as the dancers find perfect balance in motion.

During his first season as Artistic Director, Battle chose to bring one of his first creations to the Ailey Company, “Takademe.” The complex, tightly woven rhythms of Indian Kathak dance are deconstructed and abstracted in this percussive, fast-paced work. Clear shapes and propulsive jumps mimic the vocalized rhythmic syllables of Sheila Chandra’s jazzy score.

“Enemy in the Figure” (excerpt) is the intensely propulsive central section of William Forsythe’s eponymous work. Originally created in Germany (1989) for his ensemble, Ballet Frankfurt, the full work has been performed in major venues across the globe. Thom Willem’s percussive and rhythmically driving electronic score was the source of the works choreographic invention and influenced the radical use of light and shadow in the original stage design. This excerpt puts the formidable dance skills of the Ailey II dancers on fine display, giving their craft and vitality an invigorating framework.

Inspired by her Ailey homecoming, Harper’s “Freedom Series” travels through a landscape of memories creating a series of vignettes that embody and imagine a hybrid world where memory strives to influence the future. Depicted through this futuristic lens, and developed in collaboration with the Ailey II dancers, Harper’s work examines identity and community. With costumes by designer Elias Gurrola and a score featuring a blend of acoustic and electronic sounds, the unexpected twists and turns of “Freedom Series” bridge tender moments to its intrinsic ferocity.

Ailey II — Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s second company — is universally renowned for merging the spirit and energy of the country’s best early-career dance talent with the passion and creative vision of today’s most outstanding emerging choreographers. Founded in 1974 as a bridge between The Ailey School and the professional dance world, Ailey II embodies Alvin Ailey’s pioneering mission to establish an extended cultural community that provides dance performances, training, and community programs for all people. For more information, visit

All visitors coming to Pepperdine’s campus for the show must purchase a ticket or make a reservation prior to arrival on the Malibu campus. Patrons should be prepared to show their ticket at the Public Safety gate to enter campus. All patrons age 2 and older must provide proof that they are fully vaccinated or have received a negative COVID-19 test.

If you have any questions about purchasing or reserving tickets, or if you would like to make a reservation to visit the Box Office in person, contact the Box Office at or by phone at 310.506.4522.