Led by artistic director Robert Battle, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s 2015 Lincoln Center engagement kicked off with a star-studded Ailey Spirit Gala on Wednesday, June 10. The one-night-only benefit performance and party featured supermodel Tyson Beckford as honorary chair. The evening helped raise over $1 million for Ailey’s extensive educational programs for young people, including AileyCamp and scholarships to The Ailey School.

The Ailey Spirit Gala featured performances by all divisions of the Ailey organization, including the world-renowned Ailey dancers in excerpts of Matthew Rushing’s Odetta and in Robert Battle’s Takademe. The rising stars of Ailey II performed an excerpt of Manuel Vignoulle’s Breakthrough; gifted young dancers from The Ailey School (ages 6 to 23) showcased their talents and the breadth of the program’s training in a work called Synergy; and talented students from AileyCamp performed a work inspired by Christopher Huggins’s Anointed. Finally, an expanded cast of the present and future stars of Ailey came together for a memorable finale of Alvin Ailey’s timeless Revelations.

After the performance, the celebration continued at the party on the promenade. Ailey’s board of trustees (including BET President Debra L. Lee), artistic director emerita Judith Jamison and more than 650 guests (Today anchor Tamron Hall, Power star Naturi Naughton, Saturday Night Live’s Jay Pharoah, MSNBC host Janet Mock, Orange Is the New Black’s Lorraine Toussaint, Black-ish actress Jenifer Lewis, Taye Diggs, and many more) joined in dinner and dancing with the Company to the musical stylings of DJ M.O.S.

One of the night’s exciting moments was the announcement of Simon & Schuster’s upcoming children’s book based on the life of Robert Battle, to be released October 27. The book, My Story, My Dance: Robert Battle’s Journey to Alvin Ailey, is the unique story of a young boy whose life is filled with music, church, and movement—first martial arts, and then, after seeing Alvin Ailey’s Revelations, dance. It’s sure to inspire young people around the world, and is created for ages 5 – 10. For more information, click here.

Ailey’s Lincoln Center season continues through June 21. Highlights include the June 17 premiere of Mr. Battle’s No Longer Silent, free Ailey Extension classes during NYC Dance Week (June 18 – 27), and farewell performances from celebrated Ailey dancers Antonio Douthit-Boyd, Kirven Douthit-Boyd and Alicia Graf Mack.

For the comprehensive season press release with details on the repertory, the Saturday Ailey Family Matinee Series, and the Ticket to Dance Ailey Extension free class offer, click here.

Alexandra Phanor-Faury