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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at New York City Center with Choreographers Wayne McGregor, Jessica Lang, and Ronald K. Brown

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at New York City Center with Choreographers Wayne McGregor, Jessica Lang, and Ronald K. Brown
Cecly Placenti

By Cecly Placenti
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Published on January 8, 2019
Paul Kolnik

December 20, 2018

Wayne McGregor Kairos (2014)

Jessica Lang EN (City Center World Premiere, Lang’s first commission for AAADT) 

Ronald K. Brown The Call (World Premiere)

Ailey never disappoints. Powerful, sensual, commanding and free, the dancers of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater are masters of movement and expression. Impeccable technique enables them to captivate, evoking images and sensations that bring an intricate power to Wayne McGregor’s contemporary ballet Kairos.

Intermittent flashes of strobe light open the piece, and the dancers appear to be floating outside time — their movements fragmented and isolated in ghostlike outline behind a thin scrim. The choreography quickly becomes fast and elaborate, full of high arabesques, ear-grazing battements, and sinuous upper back undulations. Kairos at times looks reptilian, even insectile. 

Five dancers with the their backs to the audience flick their legs
Alvin American American Dance Theater in Wayne McGregor's Kairos; Photo by Paul Kolnik

Silky duets morph into solos and serpentine group work, a moving kaleidoscope. A quintet for Sarah Daley-Perdomo, Ghrai DeVore, Samantha Figgins, Jacqueline Green, and Jacquelin Harris highlights the supple strength of the feminine, while Solomon Dumas, Yannick Lebrun, Michael Francis-McBride, Chalvar Monteiro, and Jamar Roberts complement the women with elegant masculine power. Just as astounding as Kairos’ speed is the circuitous clarity with which its ten dancers drive the work. Francis-McBride’s lightning fast, perpetual motion solo, is the physical manifestation of Richter’s score, crystalline and magical. 

One man kneels while a woman in a purple skirt jumps with one leg high
Jacqueline Green and Solomon Dumas of Alvin American American Dance Theater in Ronald K. Brown's The Call; Photo by Paul Kolnik

In contrast to the dizzying flurry of Kairos, Ronald K. Brown’s The Call follows with cool, smooth jazz. At perfect ease amongst the polyrhythms of Mary Lou Williams, Asase Yaa Entertainment Group, and Johann Sebastian Bach, the dancers roll and ripple, their spines calling each other into a soothing celebration. Brown’s sensual grounded movements arouse a sense of calm. The lighting by Tsubasa Kamei conjures a yellow and orange dusk, sunset over water. 

Against a disc, dancers hoist a woman in the air
Alvin American American Dance Theater in Jessica Lang's EN; Photo by Paul Kolnik

In an evening of variety and wonder what eventually brings the audience to its feet is EN, a sophisticated tapestry choreographed by Jessica Lang, the only female choreographer on the program. A large disc set upstage center obscures a continually changing light. Yellow, black, white, and blue hues create shifting moods of playfulness, exuberance, decay, and darkness. A smaller orb dangles and swings pendulum-like, perhaps signifying the passing of years or the arc of life. En, a Japanese word with multiple meanings, signifies circles, destiny, fate, and karma. 

The piece grows steadily, winding through sudden arrests of movement and floating balances. Among the thirteen captivating dancers, Megan Jakel stands out for her wild abandon. Veteran dancer Matthew Rushing delights with his effervescent magnetism. En unfolds journey-like, reflecting the joys and struggles we all share and reminding us to appreciate the beauty in our experience of life.

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