Sunday, February 22, 2009

Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre

I took the kids to see the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre at the Fox today. It was a spur of the moment kind of thing - I heard one of the dancers being interviewed on WCLK radio on Thursday, and remembered how wonderful this show was when I saw them back in the late 1980s. I got tickets and off we went.

The performance was divided into three segments: Go In Grace, a recent piece from 2008, Suite Otis, a tribute to Otis Redding from 1971, and finally my favorite, Revelations, from 1960. The opening piece was such a disappointment, much more theatre than dance, and not even very good theatre. It was choreographed by one of the dancers, Hope Boykin, and is performed to the music of Sweet Honey in the Rock. It completely fell flat, and I was embarrassed for having gone on and on to my children about how wonderful the show was going to be. There were too many people onstage, the costumes were bulky, not allowing the viewer to see the dancer's body at work, the story was preachy and unclear, and worst of all there was a hearing impaired interpreter onstage at all times, "translating" the words of the songs and much of the time blocking the dancers. It was not worthy of the name Alvin Ailey, and caused me to worry about the future of his troupe. I looked for a clip to post here but couldn't find one. Small wonder. (Read more about recent Ailey choreography here)

Suite Otis began and I whispered to my kids "Now THIS is what it's supposed to be like." The dancers came out dressed in pink, against a black background. Each song was choreographed around an Otis Redding song, and delivered what you expect from the troupe - color, fluidity, sublimity (is that a word?) and moments that left the audience stunned by their beauty. I later discovered it was choreographed by George Faison, not Ailey himself. I wish there were a clip of this on YouTube but there isn't. Here is a still that I found:

The final piece is the Ailey masterpiece, Revelations. It didn't fail to impress, as always, with the Negro spirituals, the beautiful costumes and the incredible fluid lines of the dancers' bodies, both individually and as a group. The opening segment, "I Been Buked", caused Nicholas to turn to me and say "Ohhhh, I see now...even though they aren't dancing together, at the end you see that they ARE!" Yes! The kid gets dance! Here's an excerpt from this segment...sorry I can't embed, and just fast forward past Judith Jamison to about 1:17. And if you want to watch the whole thing, it comes up chronologically on YouTube:

I hate to sound negative about something I love so much, but I hope the troupe doesn't stray too far from Ailey's original mission. They should stick to the basics, that's where the beauty of the company lies.

Nick and Rosie leaving the show. It was a blustery day...

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