Alvin Ailey Dancers Embody the American Soul

10/03/2017

Various composers: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Los Angeles, 8.3.2017. (JRo)

Hope Boykin's r-Evolution, Dream. Photo credit: aul Kolnik/AAADT

Hope Boykin’s r-Evolution, Dream. (c) Paul Kolnik/AAADT

Dancers:

Hope Boykin, Jeroboam Bozeman, Sean Aaron Carmon, Elisa Clark, Sarah Daley, Ghrai DeVore, Solomon Dumas, Samantha Figgins, Vernard J. Gilmore, Jacqueline Green, Daniel Harder, Jacquelin Harris, Collin Heyward, Michael Jackson, Jr., Megan Jakel, Yannick Lebrun, Renaldo Maurice, Ashley Mayeux, Michael Francis McBride, Rachael McLaren, Chalvar Monteiro, Akua Noni Parker, Danica Paulos, Belen Pereyra, Jamar Roberts, Samuel Lee Roberts, Kanji Segawa, Glenn Allen Sims, Linda Celeste Sims, Constance Stamatiou, Jermaine Terry, Fana Tesfagiorgis

Production:
r-Evolution, Dream.
Choreography & Costume Design – Hope Boykin
Music – Ali Jackson
Narration – Leslie Odom, Jr.
Costume Project Manager – Zinda Williams
Lighting – Al Crawford

Untitled America
Choreography – Kyle Abraham
Music – Laura Mvula, Raime, Carsten Nicolai, Kris Bowers, Traditional
Costumes – Karen Young
Lighting & Scenic Design – Dan Scully
Sound Design – Sam Crawford
Interviews – Kevin R. Frech, Logical Chaos

Ella
Choreography – Robert Battle
Restaging – Marlena Wolfe
Music – performed by Ella Fitzgerald
Costumes – Jon Taylor
Lighting – Burke Wilmore

Revelations
Choreography – Alvin AileyMusic – Traditional
Décor & Costumes – Ves Harper
Redesigned costumes for ‘Rocka My Soul’ – Barbara Forbes
Lighting – Nicola Cernovitch

In a program that succeeded artistically, intellectually, and politically, Alvin Ailey’s American Dance Theater offered an evening both challenging and joyful, with works that ranged from Ailey’s 1960 masterpiece, Revelations, to Hope Boykin’s involving and evocative 2016 r-Evolution, Dream.

Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speeches and sermons, Boykin, a longtime Ailey dancer, creates a riveting dance to a soundtrack of spoken text, narrated by Leslie Odom, Jr. and incorporated into a luscious jazz score by percussionist Ali Jackson. Conflict, survival, and the comfort of community are embedded in a work that traces the evolution of the African American struggle. Without resorting to cliché or literal mindedness, Boykin takes a journey through the past while somehow maintaining an effortless flow of original, contemporary movement.

The first encounter is with dancer Matthew Rushing in black slacks, a white shirt, and tie. With eloquent gestures that evoke spoken communication, he precedes groups of dancers divided by the color of their costumes – black, white, lime green, and purple. Each group takes the stage in turn, spinning their own brand of movement. The black group, some dressed in overalls, move with the pull of gravity at their heels, evoking the rural life of the subjugated. The white group is childlike and playful at times, dancing to dissonant, jazzy rhythms. The green group’s footwork is intricate, their presence more upbeat, dancing with reference to 1940s noir and urban cool. The purple group moves to moody jazz – urban and sophisticated. Music complements movement at every turn, whether it’s snippets of Latin jazz, dancehall evocations, or sly reference to 1950’s beat poetry. All the while propulsive choreography, hinting at everything from folk dance to swing dance to classic ballet, imbue the piece with meaning and aesthetic delight. Al Crawford’s dramatic lighting, with vivid colors saturating the ensemble scenes or poetically accentuating individual sorrow and strife, brings out the piquancy of Boykin’s costume design.

Untitled America by Kyle Abraham explores the devastating effect of the prison system on African American families. It’s more literal than Boykin’s work and references to incarceration are overt, from the recorded narration of affected family members, interspersed with spiritual and contemporary music, to the staging and costumes. A long rectangular wall piece symbolizes the bars or narrow window of a prison cell. Shafts of light directed onto the performers, the percussive sounds of explosions, police radio-speak, falling bodies, and the bowed torsos of dancers all contribute to the claustrophobic environment of imprisonment. Though powerful, the dance feels overly long, descending into repetition towards the end. But the Ailey company dancers draw grace and elegance out of every gesture, no matter how tortured. Whether they’re moving from deep knee bends to classical attitudes or raising arms heavenwards, tracing patterns in the air, they embody grief in movement.

In AAADT artistic director Robert Battle’s short and oh-so-sweet Ella, Jacquelin Harris and Megan Jakel dance deliciously to Ella singing scat. Battle finds a physical equivalent to scat, improvisational in feel and loaded with personality, humor, and musicality. Scat, in the right hands or, I should say, vocal chords, takes on the characteristics of a musical instrument, using nonsense syllables and song phrases to jubilant and often comical effect. Harris and Jakel tumble, scurry, and cavort. They pull themselves up by the hair, hilariously shuffle across the stage, split jump high in the air and land on their backs, and genuinely surprise at every turn.

The company ended the evening with Ailey’s beloved Revelations. Set to traditional spirituals, the piece never fails to inspire and entertain. From the opening ‘I Been Buked’, which speaks of untold sorrow and struggle, to the raucous and comforting ‘Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham,’ which embraces joy and hope, it is clear why this ballet endures and has become a twentieth-century classic. So closely was the extraordinary Judith Jamison associated with Ailey’s creation that no matter who portrays the woman with the parasol, I always see Jamison’s torso perfectly and regally undulating to the rhythms of the spiritual, as she strides across rippling waves of white and blue fabric. But fortunately for audiences now, the Alvin Ailey dancers offer an array of talented dancers who combine elegant technique with strength, suppleness, and musicality.

Jane Rosenberg

Print Friendly

Comments

Leave a Reply

Recent Reviews

MW

Facebook-button-1

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • NEW! Bampton Classical Opera Celebrates its 25th Anniversary with Nicolò Isouard’s Cinderella __________________________________
  • NEW! Pop-Up Opera’s 2018 Mozart Double Bill __________________________________
  • NEW! Zurich Opera in 2018/2019 __________________________________
  • NEW! Let’s Dance International Frontiers (LDIF) 2018 Celebrates its Eighth Year __________________________________
  • NEW! Gloucester Choral Society’s Hubert Parry’s Centenary Celebrations in May 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Chess at the London Coliseum from 26 April for 5 Weeks __________________________________
  • NEW! The Three Choirs Festival 2018: A Preview __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018/19 Season at the Royal Opera House __________________________________
  • NEW! 2018 Cheltenham Music Festival – 30 June to 15 July __________________________________
  • NEW! Staatsoper Unter de Linden in 2018/19 __________________________________
  • NEW! St Petersburg Ballet Theatre Bring Swan Lake to London in August __________________________________
  • NEW! English National Ballet Announces its 2018-19 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! The Cleveland Orchestra’s 2018-19 Season __________________________________
  • NEW! Booking Open for Longborough Festival Opera 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! Additional Tickets Now Available for Nevill Holt Opera’s Le nozze di Figaro __________________________________
  • NEW! Leeds Lieder’s Four-Day Celebration of Art Song in April 2018 __________________________________
  • NEW! World Premiere by Novaya Opera of Pushkin – The Opera in the Theatre in the Woods __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Review Summary Newsletter

    Reviews by Reviewer

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! Chelsea Opera Group Perform Massenet’s Thaïs at the Cadogan Hall on 23 June __________________________________
  • UPDATED! Carly Paoli Sings for Chelsea Pensioners, at Cadogan Hall, and Signs for Sony/ATV __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH ITALIAN BARITONE FRANCO VASSALLO __________________________________
  • NEW! A First Charity Classical Music Concert at Finchcocks on 27 May __________________________________
  • NEW! MICHAEL SANDERLING IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! HOW TO CONTACT SEEN AND HEARD INTERNATIONAL __________________________________
  • NEW! Trinity Laban Moves to Abolish All-Male Composer Concerts __________________________________
  • NEW! ARABELLA STEINBACHER IN CONVERSATION WITH GREGOR TASSIE __________________________________
  • NEW! Matthew Bourne’s Cinderella in Cinemas on 15 May with Live Q&A __________________________________
  • NEW! THE CONDUCTOR LAURENCE EQUILBEY IN CONVERSATION WITH COLIN CLARKE __________________________________
  • NEW! Newly Discovered Song by Alma Mahler to be Performed in Oxford and Newbury __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH LISETTE OROPESA AS SHE RETURNS TO LA OPERA FOR ORFEO ED EURIDICE __________________________________
  • NEW! A Q&A WITH ANDREA CARÈ AS HE RETURNS TO COVENT GARDEN AS DON JOSÉ __________________________________
  • NEW! Rafael de Acha Introduces Some of Cincinnati’s New Musical Entrepreneurs __________________________________
  • Search S&H

    Archives by Week

    Archives by Month