Saturday, December 6, 2014

How's that Ailey troupe looking?

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
performing Ronald K. Brown's Four Corners
(photo: Paul Kolnik)

Holiday time has come again. As we ask each year, then, how's the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater looking?

Looking good! That is not news. That is pretty much what they do.

I have no news for you in this post.

And I really won't be able to tell you much about the 2014 New York City Center season, because I'm making only one dip into it, and that happened last night in the company of loyal fans of America's cherished dance ambassadors to the world.

Antonio Douthit-Boyd
in Ulysses Dove's Bad Blood
(photo: Steve Wilson)

The troupe performed Bad Blood (Ulysses Dove, 1984), Four Corners (Ronald K. Brown, 2013) and After the Rain (Christopher Wheeldon, 2005), capping the evening off with Ailey's Revelations (1960). I wouldn't call this slate a program of radical experimentation or risk on the part of Robert Battle. I'd say it maintains the status of Ailey as filled with expertly sculpted performers whose bodies are the point and the meaning behind whole stretches of movement of any kind in any season. Give Ailey audiences this beauty, this technical facility, this passionate physicality to behold, and the job is done. We go to kick back and drink in these marvelous stars and stars-in-waiting, maybe to feel a little better about the potential of the human race, and they give us their all.

This is not all I look for in an experience of dance. Far from it. But it's not nothing either. It is what it is.

Ailey dancers in Four Corners
above: Belen Pereyra
below: Kervin Douthit-Boyd

Last night's marquee item might have been the pas de deux from Christopher Wheeldon's After the Rain, danced by Linda Celeste Sims and Glenn Allen Sims. Anything coming from the world of ballet has a certain built-in sheen to it, and this is Wheeldon, after all. Safe choice. But, for me, Brown's Four Corners was the evening's knockout. The piece stirs Brown's eclectic (and perennial) movement elements and embodied spirituality to silky perfection. And look at its primary inspiration--a song by poet Carl Hancock Rux with grief for the fallen, angels seeking to bestoy healing peace and a ringing exhortation to the people:

Yours is simply this
Command and stand up
You are beautiful
And lovely
Beautiful and lovely

In this time of pain and despair, could there really be anything more in the spirit of Ailey?

an excerpt from Four Corners

The 2014 Ailey season at New York City Center continues through January 4. For schedule and ticket information, click here.

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