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Ailey II in Dress Rehearsal/The Future of Dance Looks Bright

Ailey II in Dress Rehearsal/The Future of Dance Looks Bright
Theo Boguszewski

By Theo Boguszewski
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Published on April 5, 2016
Photo: Eduardo Patino NYC

Choreography by: Jean Emile (In & Out), Jamar Roberts (Gemeos), Ray Mercer (Something Tangible), Kyle "JustSole" Clark ( I Am The Road)

Performed by: Samantha Barriento, Llyod A. Boyd II, Nathaniel Hunt, Gabriel Hyman, Jacob Lewis, Annellyse Munroe, Jacoby Pruitt, Deidre Rogan, Courtney Ross, Courtney Celeste Spears, Terrell Spence, Terri Ayanna Wright

Pictured above: Ailey II's Jacob Lewis in Kyle "JustSole" Clark's I Am The Road

Season Continues through April 10. For more info, go to the Alvin Ailey website.

Since 1974, Ailey II, the second company of the world-renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, has served as a vehicle for the training of promising young artists. A "workshop ensemble," these students hone their skills as they prepare for their entrance into the professional world. While 85 percent of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater comes from Ailey II, the company is more than just an incubator for the first company; Ailey II is unique in its mission. As per Alvin Ailey's wish to bring dance to the people, the company tours 30 cities a year, both across the US and abroad.

Ailey II returns to New York City following a 26-city tour, bringing us a bill of emerging choreographers, which includes four world premieres. If the dress rehearsal is any testament, it is clear that the future of dance looks bright.

The ensemble in nude shorts stand in a diagonal line with their right arms raised under a rose colored light
Ailey II in Jean Emile's In & Out. Photo by Eduardo Patino, NYC

The luxurious and sensual opener, Jean Emile’s In and Out, simmers with raw energy that occasionally breaks through the surface. Lithe, sculpted limbs interlock in unexpected ways, and soft gestures complement long, flowing hair and Nya Bowman’s nude costumes. The piece unfolds like a music video, highlighting the sexiness of the group. In a moment that captures our attention, the cast moves in a slow, indulgent canon on a diagonal that spans the stage.

Excerpts from Ray Mercer’s Something Tangible display the technical prowess of the company. Qualitatively similar to In and Out, the piece is fluid and mellow, punctuated by moments of extreme virtuosity. In one strikingly acrobatic moment, a male dancer dives across the locked arms of two companions to land on his back in a somersault. While the movement sometimes veers toward a flashiness reminiscent of competition dance, a captivating middle trio contributes to the introspective quality. Two males and a female stand on the edge of an illuminated circle as if on the precipice of a glowing abyss. Deirdre Rogan, alone in the center of the circle, delivers a powerhouse solo, nailing a triple pirouette into an arabesque that she just holds... and holds...

Kyle “JustSole” Clark’s autobiographical I Am The Road, depicts the journey of a young artist searching for his place in the world. The work features pulsating, rhythmic movement combined with moments of campy pantomime. At first, it’s a shock to see the creature-like dancers transform into humans, sporting white sneakers and pedestrian attire, but a few minutes of dancing assures us that they are, in fact, far from human in their immense capability.

Two women lift their legs at an angle chest height. Their backs are towards the audience, but we see their side profiles.
Ailey II in Ray Mercer's Something Tangible.  Photo by Eduardo Patino, NYC

The standout piece, Jamar Roberts’ Gemeos, delivers frisky interplay and plenty of sass. Another autobiographical work, this clever, speedy duet set to Fela Kuti portrays a playful relationship between siblings, which was inspired by Roberts' relationship with his brother. Roberts’ movement evokes an intricate script that sweeps the stage like calligraphy. Gestures like the shaking of a fist or the wiggling of a finger lend comic sensibility to the work.

I had the opportunity to speak briefly to Roberts, a principal with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, about Gemeos, which he set amidst a rigorous tour schedule.

“It’s definitely not the kind of piece that people are going to have to pull their hair out trying to find the meaning behind it. I wanted it to be accessible and fun,” says Roberts.

My chat with Roberts leaves me clear on one point: such a high level of professionalism means that things move quickly. There aren't long rehearsals in which to deliberate over artistic choices, and choreographers must be bold, decisive, and prepared.

“With such limited time to rehearse the piece, I just came into the studio and set it. The next step for Gemeos is just for the dancers to make it their own,” he asserts.

Courtney Celeste lunges. Her eyes are downcast. Her right arm extends on a diagonal above her head while her left rests on her thigh.
Ailey II's Courtney Celeste Spears in Jamar Roberts' Gemeos.  Photo by Eduardo Patino, NYC

Ailey II is truly one of a kind. It delivers a pristine product with the consistency of a well-oiled machine, yet manages to stay true to its mission of bringing dance back to the people. The company’s 2016 season is stunning yet accessible; it recognizes its audience, an awareness that sometimes gets lost in the world of esoteric modern dance. The entire evening supports the point that artistic director Troy Powell makes in his opening speech: Ailey II boasts some of the best talent of the country, but, above all, what they do is about us.

Ailey II’s season continues:

All New Program: In & Out, Gemeos, Something Tangible, I Am The Road

April 7 at 7:30pm, April 9 at 3pm, April 10 at 3pm, April 10 at 730pm

Returning Favorites Program: Hissy Fits, Breakthrough, Wings

April 6 at 7:30pm, April 8 at 8pm, April 9 at 8pm




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