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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater: Mary Lou's Mass, The Evolution of a Secured Feminine, The Hunt, The Prodigal Prince
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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater: Mary Lou's Mass, The Evolution of a Secured Feminine, The Hunt, The Prodigal Prince

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Alvin Ailey – Founder
Judith Jamison – Artistic Director
Joan H. Weill, Chairman of the Board of Trustees
Masazumi Chaya – Associate Artistic Director
Robert Battle – Artistic Director Designate
Sharon Gersten Luckman --Executive Director
Calvin Hunt, Senior Director, Performance and Production
Dacquiri T’Shaun Smittick, Company Manager
Thomas Cott, Director of Marketing
Lynette P. Rizzo, Associate Director of Marketing
Christopher Zunner, Director of Public Relations
Emily Hawkins, Public Relations Manager

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
December 23, 2010


(See Other Ailey Reviews and Photos)

Mary Lou’s Mass (Dances of Praise, 1971): Choreography by Alvin Ailey, Restaged by Masazumi Chaya, Music by Mary Lou Williams, Costumes by A. Christina Giannini, Lighting by Chenault Spence, Performed by Clifton Brown, Renee Robinson, and the Company.

Mary Lou’s Mass, a tribute to Mary Lou Williams, is scored to Ms. Williams’ third complete Mass, which has thirteen separate musical passages, each choreographed by Alvin Ailey for his Company in 1971. His Introductory “Old Time Spiritual” is led by Clifton Brown, who remains one of the most interesting dancers on stage today. Other passages have names such as “Act of Contrition”, “Gloria”, “Credo”, “Sanctus”, and “Recessional”. The “Kyrie” is led by Renee Robinson, with an ensemble, Guillermo Asca, Glenn Allen Sims, Kirven James Boyd, and Marcus Jarrell Willis. Some passages are but a minute, while others are far more complex. The Company dances in silky tones of yellow and orange (A. Christina Giannini’s costumes), with Mr. Brown in a belted robe over black pants. The entire ballet is reverential, with Ms. Williams’ piano recording so dominant in the atonal-mixed-with-melodic work. Ms. Robinson still dances in her prime, with an everlasting talent that she imbues with inherent radiance.


The Evolution of a Secured Feminine (2007): Choreography by Camille A. Brown, Assistants to the choreographer: Jasmine Forest and Francine E. Ott, Music sung by Ella Fitzgerald, Betty Carter, Nancy Wilson, Lighting by Brenda gray, Costumes by Carolyn Meckha Cherry, Performed by Ghrai DeVore.

Camille A. Brown’s comical, poignant piece was a solo for Ghrai DeVore, in a man's dress hat and retro 40’s pantsuit, sitting on a simple chair, acting out the lyrics of Ella Fitzgerald, Betty Carter, and Nancy Wilson’s songs. The suit bares one of Ms. DeVore’s arms and torso, a half-jacket approach, with her hat in various positions of cool-midnight-in-a-club sexiness. After the previous spiritual work, the audience loved this humorous respite, a perfect interlude. What’s great about the Ailey Company is that humor never lowers these dancers into girlishness. These women are always women.


The Hunt (2001): Choreography by Robert Battle, Asst. to the choreographer: Erika Pujikic, Music by Les Tambours du Bronx, Costumes by Mia McSwain, Lighting by Burke Wilmore, Performed by Clifton Brown, Antonio Douthit, Kirven James Boyd, Yannick Lebrun, Glenn Allen Sims, Jamar Roberts.

Speaking of mature affect, Robert Battle’s The Hunt encompasses five men in long black-red, African-styled half-robes, with their upper torsos uncovered, skin glowing in Burke Wilmore’s dim glow. They run across the stage, form circles clasping hands, lunge and charge at each other, then bond spiritually, before grappling in dance once again, a study in shifting relationships and moods. The score by Les Tambours du Bronx is electronic, thunderous, and penetrating. The sheer strength of the ensemble of Clifton Brown, Antonio Douthit, Kirven James Boyd, Yannick Lebrun, Glenn Allen Sims, and Jamar Roberts is larger than life. I look forward to future works by Robert Battle, the Company’s newly designated Artistic Director.


The Prodigal Prince (1968): Choreography, music, and costumes by Geoffrey Holder, Assts. To the choreographer, Masazumi Chaya and Matthew Rushing, Lighting and stage effects by Clifton Taylor, Performed by Samuel Lee Roberts as Hector Hyppolite, Akua Noni Parker as Erzulie Freda Dahomey, Jamar Roberts as Saint John the Baptist, Hope Boykin as The Mambo/Le Serviteur, Michael Francis McBride as Spirit/Pret-Savanne, and the Company as Erzulie’s Retinue and Companions of Pret-Savanne.

Tonight’s cast was exactly the same as it was two nights earlier, but, on second viewing, I let go of the dramatic, historical, religious symbolism and concentrated on the gestalt of the experience. On both nights, Mr. Holder’s The Prodigal Prince closed the program, as no other work could really follow such an absorbing extravaganza of dance, costumes, sets, and wild theatrics. In fact, the lighting is so dim, with the costumed characters so glowing, that you forget that these are dancers you’ve seen in Ellington, Gillespie, and Gospel. You are transported to Haiti, in a tale of Voudoun, and the characters are costumed so fancifully that The Prodigal Prince is more like a Broadway show, or Cirque du Soleil, or full-length story ballet. This Company never ceases to amaze. Kudos to Geoffrey Holder.

Kudos to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. You can catch them on tour by checking www.ailey.org.



Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
in Alvin Ailey's "Mary Lou's Mass"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik


Briana Reed in Camille A. Brown's
"The Evolution Of A Secured Feminine"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik


Briana Reed in Camille A. Brown's
"The Evolution Of A Secured Feminine"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik


Kirven James Boyd in
Geoffrey Holder's "The Prodigal Prince"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik


Briana Reed and Samuel Lee Roberts
in Geoffrey Holder's "The Prodigal Prince"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik



For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at zlokower@bestweb.net