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AUDIENCE REVIEW: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Company / Show / Event
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Venue / Location
City Center Theater, NY
A bit about you:
(your occupation, the last time you moved, your website, etc.)
retired dancer; mother of two movers and shakers
NEW BEGINNINGS AND REVELATIONS - OPENING NIGHT GALA
An enthusiastic audience welcomed the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater for its opening night gala performance at the newly renovated City Center. Gala co-chair Joan Weill introduced the evening, the sponsors and the new artistic director, Robert Battle. He in turn gave an award for long-term leadership to Kimberly B. Davis, president of the JP Morgan Chase Foundation and proceeded to thank his mentors and to talk about the fabulousness of what was to come. If the build-up was long-winded, the pay-off was initially less than satisfying. In the excerpt "If It's Magic" from Judith Jamison's 2004 work "Love Stories," Alicia Graf Mack extended her legs high and posed to Stevie Wonder's music played live by John Legend, who shared the stage with the dancer. Graf Mack was not able to transform the rather thin choreography into something meaningful. Magic it was not.
Battle came back to bridge the gap between the solo and the Paul Taylor group work "Arden Court" and acknowledged his former boss David Parsons, a Taylor alumnus, and Carolyn Adams, a mentor to Battle and muse to Taylor. The light work to music by William Boyce for six men and three women is an unfortunate match for the Ailey dancers. At best a jovial romp, the work has little substance and does not challenge a dancer to connect body and soul, a quality some of the better Ailey repertory is known for. However, Glenn Allen Sims managed to lend some gravitas to his role and Samuel Lee Roberts was especially sprightly when the dance needed it most. Taylor was present and took a bow with the dancers.
After intermission, the beauty of former fashion model IMAN, illuminated the stage. Her impassioned introduction to the evening's next two works was a highlight of the evening. Before "Revelations" took the stage, Linda Celeste Sims and Clifton Brown displayed their athletic abilities in the misguided "Prelude to a Kiss," an excerpt from "Nature Boy: Kurt Elling" choreographed by Lar Lubovitch in 2005. These dancers deserve better material.
A reason to be enthusiastic was Alvin Ailey's 1960 signature work "Revelations." Performed here with live music and by an augmented cast that included children in three sections, Ms. Sims transcended through strength into pure spirituality in the arms of her husband, who was her soul and anchor in the duet "Fix Me, Jesus." I cannot count how many times I have seen this work, but never before was I so moved by this part. Next Matthew Rushing and Renee Robinson led through a joyful "Wade in the Water." That more is not always better was all too evident in "I Wanna Be Ready." Usually a solo prayer, here it was performed by three strong dancers who competed in individual pools of light and consequently the section lost its quiet power. A decision that is especially curious, since the next section, "Sinner Man," happens to be a male trio. The stellar performances by Marcus Jarrell Willis, Antonio Douthit, and Kirven James Boyd brought down the house. The audience was now ready to be rocked in the bosom of Abraham and that is what the company did masterfully with the help of the glorious live accompaniment.
A festive evening that left me with questions about the relevance of the new acquisitions. There is no need to try to compete with "Revelations," but it would be rewarding to see the Ailey dancers in works of today that present them with the challenge of a confluence of body, mind and soul.