Company member Samuel Lee Roberts dances at the 20th annual Alvin Ailey gala at the Kennedy Center on Feb. 5. (Kate Warren for The Washington Post)

It was the perfect antidote: an unseasonably warm night, good vibes, and gifted dancers honoring icon Alvin Ailey and the company he founded more than 60 years ago to celebrate the African American experience. None of the hundreds of attendees at Tuesday night’s opening gala thought about being anywhere else, especially not at the Capitol. “Wait,” asked one veteran Hill staffer with a smirk, “was there something else going on tonight?”

It’s no coincidence that the 20th annual opening-night gala in Washington felt of the moment. As President Trump delivered one of the longest State of the Union addresses in history, Alvin Ailey dancers were onstage at the Kennedy Center performing “Lazarus,” a piece that deftly married historic influences and Ailey’s own voice to illuminate today’s prescient conversations around racism in America.

After the performance, nearly 800 attendees headed upstairs for a seated dinner that quickly turned into a dance-off with tunes by DJ D-Nice. The gala, which raised nearly $1.1 million for the company and its programs, is never afraid to turn up, and the stars of the dance floor are — of course — the company members themselves.


Deidre Thompson dances at the Alvin Ailey gala. (Kate Warren for The Washington Post)

Gala co-chair and Alvin Ailey board member Sela Thompson Collins, right, and Reggie Felton celebrate. (Kate Warren for The Washington Post)

From left, company members Henry Wilen, Selena Campbell and Marq Gonzalaz enjoy the gala. (Kate Warren for The Washington Post)

Wesley Thomas and his husband, Eric Jones, attend the gala at the Kennedy Center. (Kate Warren for The Washington Post)

Yebbie Watkins, left, dances with company members Samantha Figgins and Chalvar Monteiro. (Kate Warren for The Washington Post)

A party guest takes a selfie on the crowded dance floor at the Alvin Ailey gala. (Kate Warren for The Washington Post)