Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ailey goes Gaga!

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Artistic Director Robert Battle, Associate Artistic Director Masazumy Chaya and Company members. (Photo: Andrew Eccles)

Get ready, New York! Minus 16--a 1999 work recycled from bits of other Gaga-licious dances by Ohad Naharin--is about to get the Ailey treatment, and vice versa.

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, under Robert Battle's new leadership, opens its 2011 New York City Center season later this month. Minus 16, arguably the most anticipated company premiere, will find these dancers--noted for majestic technique and entertaining sass--suddenly incorporating things like audience interaction, improvisation, abstract oddities, and a fevered articulation from the inside out that makes their entire bodies bristle with alarming energy.

The piece was taught to the Ailey dancers by Danielle Agami from Naharin's Batsheva Dance Company (Tel Aviv). Its Ailey premiere honors the memory of Mari Kajiwara, Naharin's late wife and an Ailey star for many years.

Yesterday, the company welcomed a select audience for a studio preview of excerpts from Minus 16. While numerous dancers mysteriously huddled in the distance, a soloist treated us to sly, twisty movements that rapidly and endlessly rippled and flicked through his sinewy form from top to bottom, front to back, and side to side. Set to a perky mambo, it was dance as a spreading itch. Gradually, the space accumulated more and more dancers, each rooted in his or her own discrete patch of floor, each obsessed with this movable itch that can never be scratched away.

In another section, a large corps formed a massive semicircle, each dancer set in a wide-legged stance, their movements as propulsive as the recorded Israeli music and vocals. They barked out one of the song's lines each time it came around, and they moved with an unexpected aggression that's going to rock the house. The Ailey crowd will never be the same!

"There's a lot of reaching back and pushing forward," Battle said of his inaugural programming which pays tribute to the Ailey tradition while stretching the performers, young ones and seasoned ones alike, in challenging new directions. Other notable features include the world premiere of Rennie Harris' Home, derived from stories of people living with or affected by HIV, and the company premiere of Paul Taylor's Arden Court.

For information on schedule and ticketing for the upcoming Ailey season (November 30-January 1), click here.

New York City Center
West 55th Street, between 6th and 7th Avenues, Manhattan
(visitors information, map and directions)

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