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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

April 18, 2012

Alvin Ailey's showstopping "Revelations," Photograph by Paul Kolnik

Revelations et al

Reviewed April 17, 2012

NAC Southam Hall, Ottawa

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater didn’t miss a beat on Tuesday. These dancers can move with an unsurpassable energy! And move they did, through five enthralling dance creations that took the audience on a tour of this magnetic troupe’s history over 40 years. Sandwiched between two half-hour productions, both choreographed by the late Alvin Ailey in 1970 and 1960 respectively, were three works from the 1990s and 2001. All this translated into a full evening of rivetting entertainment by a company of some 30 dancers whose muscularity and physicality shine ever so intensely.

The extensive exotic percussion composition by Czech musician Miloslav Kabelac dictates the movement in the opener, Streams, a new production of a 1970 dance by Ailey. The hypnotic rhythm brands the work with a sense of time passing, casting an aura of pendulums and ticking hands and mechanical clockwork, performed in measured beats, large sweeps of the legs and elongated arms by the 14 dancers. The “Eight Inventions” of the composition, which was first performed by the Strasbourg Percussion Ensemble in 1965, take the dancers through a series of paced movements – allegro or andante — each bathed in its own light. It’s a remarkably fine interpretation of an unusual accompaniment, with little notations of movement interjected into the pauses.

The finale was the company’s signature Revelations, one of Ailey’s first dances he created by drawing  inspiration from his “blood memories” of Texas, the blues, spirituals and gospel. Driven by traditional arrangements such as “Wade in the Water” and “Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham,” this acclaimed work puts the company’s artists through nine movements that range from solos – such as the astonishing performance by Yannick Lebrun – and trios – Michael Jackson, Jr., Sean A. Carmon and Michael Francis McBride work “Sinner Man” in seemingly impossible vaults and gravity-defying contortions — to more than half the company on stage, clad in sunshine yellow southern frocks, shade umbrellas and gentlemanly duds. 

Urban Folk Dance, a short (about 10 minutes) dance created by the late American choreographer Ulysses Dove in 1990, is a bold, wild and gritty commentary on urban relationships that doesn’t waste a punch. There are two couples, two tables, four chairs and a highly confrontational interaction with each other and the furniture. It’s a statement of urgency, rage and passion in black and white, and Linda Celeste Sims, Michael Jackson, Jr., Hope Boykin and guest artist Matthew Rushing are to be commended for their true-to-life interpretation.

The Hunt is a 15-minute dance for six men created by the company’s newest artistic director (since 2011) Robert Battle. Mostly bathed in red light and draped in long black skirts lined with scarlet cloth, the bare-chested dancers are warriors in motion, riveting masculine energy. As with all the troupe’s presentations, this dance is moved along by the compositions. In this case, three loud and insistent musical arrangements by different musicians, and all performed by Les Tambours du Bronx, thunder through the bodies.

An absolute gem of the evening, all of three minutes, is Battle’s 1999 Takademe. The enchanting Kanji Segawa performs this solo that deconstructs Indian Kathak dance rhythms in a humorous and highly innovative presentation. Takademe is one of Battle’s first creative efforts and is entirely informed by Sheila Chandra’s syncopated syllables in “Speaking in Tongues II.”

Battle, this troupe’s new director, is a talented master African-American choreographer that will undeniably brighten stages with any manifestation of his creative genius.


From → Contemporary

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