Tag Archives: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater – Programme C

★★★★

Sadler’s Wells Theatre

Alvin Ailey

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater – Programme C – Ounce of Faith / Members Don’t Get Weary / Ella / Revelations

 Sadler’s Wells Theatre

Reviewed – 10th September 2019

★★★★

 

These are dancers at the very top of their game, with bodies at the peak of strength and grace, tuned to the highest level of expression

 

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is currently at Sadler’s Wells. Over the course of ten days, the company is showcasing its unique choreographic style, fusing contemporary with African, Asian and Native American dance, along with jazz and hip-hop influenced movement. The company is presenting three programmes, each ending with Ailey’s signature piece, Revelations, created in 1960; quite possibly the most famous piece in the global contemporary dance repertoire. All the work stems from African American experience, from ‘blood memories’ as Ailey termed his own Texan childhood, and is danced to the rhythms of both Africa and America, blending gospel, soul, blues and jazz with more contemporary beats and percussive rhythms.

The three newer pieces in Programme C – Ounce of Faith, Members Don’t Get Weary and Ella are linked both thematically and musically, and there is a clear through line and feeling of progression to them which makes for immensely satisfying viewing. Darrell Grand Moultrie’s Ounce of Faith takes its title from a piece of spoken word used in the work, ‘when someone has an ounce of faith in you, it can change the course of your life’ and the choreography physically highlights the beauty and value of support throughout, particularly in the stunning trio danced by three male dancers in the first third of the piece. The work moves from individual struggle, in which we literally see the physical pressure of the world manifest in the body of a single female dancer, through high-energy ensemble sections, to more intimate manifestations of togetherness, to a moment of stillness garnered from a finale in which we, along with the dancers, surrender to pure movement. It is by turns beautiful, tender, sexy and exciting. And full of soul and pride. It shouts, WE ARE HERE AND TOGETHER WE ARE STRONG and had the audience whooping with pleasure as the curtain came down last night. These are dancers at the very top of their game, with bodies at the peak of strength and grace, tuned to the highest level of expression. It’s a moving and joyous experience to watch.

Members Don’t Get Weary is Jamar Roberts’ extraordinary creation, which comes from the music of John Coltrane. Watching this piece is akin to watching Coltrane’s music made flesh. The dancers simply become the music; they are not dancing alongside it, but embodying it. They simply ARE the music. It is as though the notes issuing from that alto sax, piano and bass leave the instruments and morph into human form. The piece begins in semi-narrative mode, when we watch a micro-drama unfold, but it really comes into its own when the narrative is left behind and the soul and passion of Coltrane’s playing is simply danced out in front of us. Thrilling, mesmerising, unforgettable. The dancers move like liquid in their shades of blue, but they are on fire.

In the final piece, before the closing Revelations, we are treated to the five minute burst of joy that is Ella. Ella Fitzgerald was famous for her virtuoso quick-fire scatting, and in this exuberant duet, Robert Battle’s choreography matches the playfulness, comedy and pure frenzied fun of Ella’s live concert performance of Airmail Special. It is fast and furious, and the two male dancers who danced it last night seemed to be having the time of their lives, which meant we did too.

Despite its sacred place in the contemporary dance canon, it seems a strange choice to perform Revelations as the closing piece to each programme. It is still an important work, but to continually finish with it seems to take away from the sensational new work that is surely Ailey’s true legacy.

 

Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw

Photography by Paul Kolnik

 


 

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

 Sadler’s Wells Theatre until 14th September

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Tom | ★★★★ | November 2018
Swan Lake | ★★★★★ | December 2018
Bon Voyage, Bob | ★★½ | February 2019
The Thread | ★★½ | March 2019
Mitten Wir Im Leben Sind/Bach6Cellosuiten | ★★★★★ | April 2019
Rite Of Spring | ★★★★★ | May 2019
Constellations | ★★ | June 2019
Elixir Extracts Festival: Company Of Elders | ★★★★★ | June 2019
Fairy Tales | ★★★★ | June 2019
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre – Programme A | ★★★★ | September 2019

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater – Programme A

★★★★

Sadler’s Wells Theatre

Alvin Ailey

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater – Programme A – Lazarus / Revelations

 Sadler’s Wells Theatre

Reviewed – 4th September 2019

★★★★

 

“Lazarus is a breathtaking new addition”

 

Alvin Ailey set up the company that would become the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater in 1958. He was taught by the renowned choreographer Lester Horton, and carried on Horton’s vision of an integrationist modern dance form that included elements of African, Asian and Native American movement styles. Alvin Ailey Dance Theater celebrated it’s 60th anniversary last year and is still bringing Ailey’s unique vision to the world’s stages; now encompassing contemporary hip-hop culture and rhythms in the company’s continued mission to evoke the emotional and physical drama of African American experience.

Lazarus was choreographed by acclaimed hip hop choreographer Rennie Harris and had its premiere as part of the 60th anniversary celebrations. It is an extraordinary work, with the visceral power of a dream, and moves, quite literally, from the dark to the light, in its first and second acts. The soundscape is a work of art in itself: a collage of music and text built from gospel, blues, house, and the words of Ailey himself. Act One is set on an almost completely dark stage; figures appear against the blackness, semi-illuminated. Often, when they are fully lit, it is in the aggressive light of a searchlight and against the barking of dogs, or the beating of a heart. Harris doesn’t spare us; we see torture and pain, and in one unbearable and unforgettable stage picture, bodies in the unmistakable twisting of the lynched. The dancers run, twist, bow down under burdens and break, in expressions of human, and specifically African American, suffering. But yet Harris also uses them in an abstract way too – they become cornfields, rolling mist and instruments of pure expression. It is mesmerising. The second act begins in the same language but then erupts into fierce, proud, sexy joy. It is club culture mixed with the pride of African royalty (referenced in the costumes), ‘so people can see how beautiful they are’ to use the words of Ailey himself. The very last sound of the piece is the exhalation of a single dancer. And it seems everything is contained in that breath – exhaustion, completion and, ultimately, humanity.

Revelations is the second piece of the evening, and was choreographed by Ailey himself, in 1960, to pay homage to and reflect the cultural heritage of the African American, which Ailey considered to be one of America’s richest treasures. The piece is rich in religious feeling and symbolism, powered by gospels and spirituals, and has a three movement structure – Pilgrim of Sorrow, Take Me to the Water and Move, Members, Move – which operates in the manner of a concerto. Within each movement, there are set pieces – sometimes for a single dancer, sometimes a duet, a trio or an ensemble – separated by a brief blackout. The opening ensemble piece is stunning; the dancers all in earth tones and reaching, reaching for the light with open palms and strength in hips and thighs. None of the other pieces quite matched this one in terms of visual and emotional power, and the use of props in two of the later pieces detracted from the feeling of spiritual strength and connection generated by the skill of the dancers. The final piece in particular, in which the women danced with fans and hats and perched on stools, with the men weaving in between, felt like the ‘bring the house down’ number from a big musical and took away from the earlier meditations, and indeed, from the power of the evening as a whole. It also felt very wrong to have two intervals; Lazarus would have been much better served being programmed without an interval between the first and second act.

In sum, despite a couple of minor caveats, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is still a force to be reckoned with, and Rennie Harris’ Lazarus is a breathtaking new addition to its repertoire. We’re lucky to have this exceptional company in town; don’t miss out.

 

Reviewed by Rebecca Crankshaw

Photography by Manny Hernandez

 


 

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

 Sadler’s Wells Theatre until 14th September

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Layla and Majnun | ★★★½ | November 2018
Tom | ★★★★ | November 2018
Swan Lake | ★★★★★ | December 2018
Bon Voyage, Bob | ★★½ | February 2019
The Thread | ★★½ | March 2019
Mitten Wir Im Leben Sind/Bach6Cellosuiten | ★★★★★ | April 2019
Rite Of Spring | ★★★★★ | May 2019
Constellations | ★★ | June 2019
Elixir Extracts Festival: Company Of Elders | ★★★★★ | June 2019
Fairy Tales | ★★★★ | June 2019

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews