Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
At New York City Center
Alvin Ailey – Founder
Judith Jamison – Artistic Director Emerita
Robert Battle – Artistic Director
Masazumi Chaya – Associate Artistic Director
Joan H. Weill, Chairman of the Board of Trustees
Sharon Gersten Luckman --Executive Director
Calvin Hunt, Senior Director, Performance and Production
Dacquiri T’Shaun Smittick, Company Manager
Christopher Zunner, Director of Public Relations
Emily Hawkins, Public Relations Manager
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
December 20, 2011
(See Other Ailey Reviews and Photos)
Uptown (2009): Choreography by Matthew Rushing, Assistants to the Choreographer: Renee Robinson and Samuel Deshauteurs, Script by Matthew Rushing & Gregor L. Gibson, Music by Various Artists, Original composition by Ted Rosenthal, Costume concept & design by Matthew Rushing, Costume consultants & design by John Taylor and Dante Baylor, Lighting & scenic design by Al Crawford, Photographs by Various Artists, Dramatic coaching by Hope Clarke, Swing dance consultant: Clyde Wilder, Performed by the Company.
Tonight’s program was my total favorite of the four-program annual review for this page. In fact, I’d be happy to revisit this exact four-piece show every year, as the pieces grow and expand in the viewer’s mind. Matthew Rushing’s 2009 Uptown easily displays his long association with the Company and its heritage. Renee Robinson and Samuel Deshauteurs assisted Mr. Rushing in this work about the music and culture of old Harlem, and its famous Cotton Club. Harlem in the 1920’s comes to life through dance, with a retro Victrola, Paul Robeson’s “No More Auction Block” (with rear stage documentary projections), Ted Rosenthal’s composition, “Welcome to Harlem”, Fats Waller’s “This Joint is Jumpin”, excerpts of an original interview of W. E. B. Dubois by Moses Asch, Johnny Alston’s “Hit that Jive Jack”, Ted Rosenthal’s compositions for “Divas, Apples, and Jazz”, Eubie Blake’s “I’m Just Wild about Harry”, Langston Hughes’ poem, “The Weary Blues”, and Ted Rosenthal’s “Uptown”, commissioned for this work.
“Welcome to Harlem”, with the Company, featured Marcus Jarrell Willis as Victor, followed by “Rent Party”, about a joyous, jiving fund-raising party for a down-low tenant. Demetia Hopkins was an impassioned “Ladylife”, while Mr. Willis had a lead as Victor. This segment was immensely entertaining. The “Divas” included Ghrai DeVore as Florence Mills, Akua Noni Parker as Josephine Baker, and Jacqueline Green as Ethel Waters, all strutting about in an elegant ballroom, with grand costumes, postures, and lots of adoration. Antonio Douthit danced a solo in “Weary Blues”, personifying Langston Hughes. And, in the Cotton Club finale, Mr. Willis re-appeared with white tie and tails, costumed as Victor, lead of this elegant and poignant opus.
Cry (1971) For all black women everywhere, especially our mothers: Choreography by Alvin Ailey, Music by Alice Coltrane, Laura Nyro, and Chuck Griffin, Costume by A. Christina Giannini, Lighting by Chenault Spence, Performed by Linda Celeste Sims. Ms. Sims’ use of the long, white, ruffled dress as a prop for life's struggles, life's exuberance, and life's successes, was captivating and charismatic. With all the full company works in the Ailey repertoire, this one-woman piece never ceases to satisfy the viewer on every level. Mr. Ailey created this piece in 1971 for all black women and mothers. It’s scored to Alice Coltrane, Laura Nyro, and Chuck Griffin. Ms. Sims was dramatic, dynamic, and driven. The dress was like a character in the show, used to infinitely express joyful release and the sensation of survival.
Mr. Ailey created this role specifically for Judith Jamison, the Company’s just retired Artistic Director, whose very image onstage in this work was her hallmark. Ms. Sims has carried forth the choreography, over the years, exemplifying Mr. Ailey’s training in the Martha Graham genre, of contraction-releases. The expansive length of material becomes a turban, a slave-like restraint, and, finally a swing. Lyrics at one point include drugs and death, but darkness reveals light. Ms. Sims was charismatic and commanding.
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 Jermaine Terry, Antonio Douthit, Samuel Lee Roberts, Yannick Lebrun, Glenn Allen Sims, Marcus Jarrell Willis.
I find Mr. Battle’s 2001 The Hunt to be immensely exciting, encompassing 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 Jermaine Terry, Antonio Douthit, Samuel Lee Roberts, Yannick Lebrun, Glenn Allen Sims, and Marcus Jarrell Willis (who led Uptown, earlier tonight) is larger than life. I look forward to future new works, like The Hunt, by Robert Battle, the Company’s new Artistic Director.
Revelations (1960): Choreography by Alvin Ailey, Music: Traditional, Décor and Costumes by Ves Harper, Costumes for "Rocka My Soul" Redesigned by Barbara Forbes, Lighting by Nicola Cernovitch, Performed by the Company.
Fittingly, my last seasonal viewing was the incomparable Revelations. Guillermo Asca, one of my favorites in the Company, for his unique take on the motifs and momentum, performed “I Wanna Be Ready” with persuasive soulfulness and muscular athleticism, mostly on the stage floor. Clifton Brown and Demetia Hopkins assumed the roles in “Fix Me, Jesus”, gazing out at the crowd, and “Sinner Man” brought out Michael Jackson, Jr., Sean A. Carmon, and Kanji Segawa, all dashing dynamos. But, tonight’s diamond moment came with “Wade in the Water”, with Rachael McLaren, Matthew Rushing, and Alicia Graf Mack. Ella Jenkins’ music came alive all over again.
Kudos to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. You can catch them on tour by checking www.ailey.org.
Ailey Dance Theater in
Robert Battle's "The Hunt"
Courtesy of Christopher Duggan