Review: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

| April 13, 2012
Linda Celeste Sims and Glenn Allen Sims in Revelations, choeographed by Alvin Ailey       
      
Alvin Ailey
   American Dance Theater
 

From Artistic Director Robert Battle
Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Pkwy (map)
thru April 15  |  tickets: $30-$90   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
        Read entire review
     


     
       

Alvin Ailey gives dance fans a reason to celebrate

     

"Sweet Honey In The Rock" in Alvin Ailey's "Revelations". (photo credit: Christopher Duggan)

    
The Auditorium Theatre presents
    
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Review by Lauren Whalen 

There is nothing like Alvin Ailey. Even the Executive Director of the Auditorium Theatre, who sees countless of the performing arts crème de la crème throughout the year, was positively jubilant to introduce the company’s annual visit to Chicago and its new artistic director Robert Battle. Taking over for the legendary Judith Jamison (a protégée of Ailey himself), Battle has some impressive dance shoes to fill, and if Wednesday’s ARDEN COURT
Choreography by Paul Taylor 
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Credit Photo: Paul Kolnik
studio@paulkolnik.com
nyc 212-362-7778

performance was any indication, he’s more than up to the task. As always, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater presents works that are at once musically eclectic, technically intimidating and joyously inclusive.

Note: different pieces play on alternate nights, except for Revelations which closes every show. This is the review of the April 11 performance.

Wednesday’s show opened with Arden Court. Choreographed by Paul Taylor, the piece is technically modern but has strong classical roots. The dancers’ execution of the difficult steps is near-flawless, their leaps strong, their lines gorgeous to behold. What’s best about Arden Court, however, is its humor. Dance is a serious art to be sure, requiring total devotion and submission from a select few for a small paycheck over a limited period of time. But at its heart, dance encompasses life itself: the fun, sweet moments as well as the dark ones. Taylor’s vibrant staging to William Boyce’s classical score, coupled with Jennifer Tipton’s warm lighting and Gene Moore’s rustic costumes make for a moving painting with the Ailey dancers as ever-fascinating subjects.

Ohad Naharin’s Minus 16 (which has also been performed by Hubbard Street Dance Chicago) is a sharp contrast to the lovely lines and light instrumentals of Arden Court. Set to the most eclectic of music – everything from “Hava Nagila” to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” – the dancers, clad in dark suits and matching fedoras and crouching in folding chairs, are the picture of conformity. Patterns arise and are repeated amid frantic chants and drumbeats – except for one dancer who repeatedly falls over and one who constantly leaps up on his chair. In the second section of the number, an emotional pas de deux, conformity and repression give way to matters of the heart. The entire company returns for the third section of the piece and demonstrates just what happens when caution is thrown to the wind: everything good. Solemnly marching into the audience, each dancer selects a partner and brings them on stage for a frenetic and fun display of the wonders of dance. Normally I loathe audience participation on every level, but here, it works. Never are the participants made to feel silly or self-conscious. The performers ease them in, urging by example until even the shyest lets loose, discovering the simple joy in movement alongside those who’ve made it their life’s work.

 HOME
Choreography by Rennie Harris 
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Credit Photo: Paul Kolnik
studio@paulkolnik.com
nyc 212-362-7778

Each Ailey performance closes with the company’s signature dance. Alvin Ailey choreographed Revelations in 1960 as a tribute to his churchgoing childhood and the sense of community, spirituality and light it evoked. Over five decades later, Revelations is profoundly moving and thus extraordinarily difficult to review. Ailey’s jumps and turns are both deeply rooted in the ground and straight up in the sky, surpassing the ceiling of the Auditorium stage. They convey the despair of the sinner and the redemption of the saved, the deep Southern heat and the cleansing relief of the river. “Wade in the Water,” sung by Ella Jenkins and featuring Renee Robinson as an umbrella-toting high-priestess figure and Vernard J. Gilmore and Rachael McLaren as two new souls, had me unconsciously undulating in my seat. I couldn’t help it!

When Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater comes to the city, dance fans rejoice. But the magic of Ailey is its accessibility to all: dance is a happy medium, and as the brilliant choreographers and wonderful dancers illustrate, it’s for everybody. Long after his death, Alvin Ailey’s Revelations turns the staunchest atheist into a witnessing believer. Can I get an “Amen”?

  
Rating: ★★★★
  
   

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater continues through April 15th at Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Pkwy (map), with performances Friday at 7:30pm, Saturdays 2 and 8pm, Sunday 3pm.  Tickets are $30-$90, and are available by phone (800-982-2787) or at TicketMaster.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More info at AuditoriumTheatre.org(Running time: 2 hours, includes two intermissions)

"Sweet Honey In The Rock" in Alvin Ailey's "Revelations". (photo credit: Christopher Duggan) AAADT's J. Roberts, A. Douthit and C. Brown in Alvin Ailey's Revelations.  Photo by Andrew Eccles
Matthew Rushing & Company in HOME
Choreography by Rennie Harris 
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Credit Photo: Paul Kolnik
studio@paulkolnik.com
nyc 212-362-7778

Minus 16
Choreography by Ohad Naharin
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Credit Photo: Paul Kolnik
studio@paulkolnik.com
nyc 212-362-7778
Alvin Ailey's "Revelations". (photo credit: Christopher Duggan) ARDEN COURT
Choreography by Paul Taylor 
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Credit Photo: Paul Kolnik
studio@paulkolnik.com
nyc 212-362-7778


     

artists

dancers

Guillermo Asca, Kirven James Boyd, Hope Boykin, Sean A. Carmon, Sarah Daley, Ghrai DeVore, Antonio Douthit, Belen Estrada, Renaldo Gardner, Vernard J. Gilmore, Jacqueline Green, Daniel Harder, Demetia Hopkins, Michael Jackson, Jr., Megan Jakel, Yannick Lebrun, Alicia Graf Mack, Michael Francis McBride, Rachael McLaren, Aisha Mitchell, Akua Noni Parker, Briana Reed, Samuel Lee Roberts, Renee Robinson, Kelly Robotham, Kanji Segawa, Glenn Allen Sims, Linda Celeste Sims, Jermaine Terry, Marcus Jarrell Willis, Matthew Rushing (Guest Artist)

behind the scenes

Robert Battle (Artistic Director), Masazumi Chaya (Associate Artistic Director), Judith Jamison (Artistic Director Emerita), Matthew Rushing (Rehearsal Director)

For Arden Court:

Paul Taylor (Choreography), William Boyce (Music), Cathy McCann Buck (Restaging), Gene Moore (Set and Costumes), Jennifer Tipton (Lighting)

For Minus 16:

Ohad Naharin (Choreography/Costumes), Danielle Agami (Restaging), Various Artists (Music), Avi Yona “Bambi” Bueno (Lighting)

For Revelations:

Alvin Ailey (Choreography), Ves Harper (Décor and costumes), Barbara Forbes (Costume redesign for “Rocka My Soul”), Nicola Cernovitch (Lighting)

Minus 16
Choreography by Ohad Naharin
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Credit Photo: Paul Kolnik
studio@paulkolnik.com

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Category: 2012 Reviews, Auditorium Theatre, Dance, Lauren Whalen, National Tours

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