BWW Reviews: Ailey's Lincoln Center Season Spans Style and Century
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Lincoln Center season features audience favorites along with fresh additions to the company's already extensive repertoire. The array of lineages celebrated in every Ailey program is not only a testament to the virtuosity of the company, but also highlights the astute curatorial eye of Ailey's Artistic Director Robert Battle.
Sunday evening's program opened with Ron K. Brown's "Grace." Its casual-cool showcases Brown at his best. The deep bass of Roy Davis Jr.'s House anthem "Gabriel" accents each gesture, as if the song and dance were made in tandem. Matthew Rushing is especially outstanding in this Ailey audience favorite. A master of lyricism, Rushing listens with his body and responds effortlessly through the grounded physicality of Brown's movement language. In the Ailey universe, Rushing is Grace.
Battle understands well how the past informs what is to come. This season, the company paid homage to the rich legacy of black dance in the United States with the addition of "Awassa Astrige/Ostrich." Choreographed by Asadata Dafora in 1932, this solo is credited as the first West African piece performed with Western staging. Ailey's revival of Dafora's masterpiece proved to be as groundbreaking as the original was 80 years ago. Yannick Lebrun's alert, curious gaze and supple spine undulations were performed with the mastery one would acquire only through close study of archival footage.
In "D-man in the Waters (Part 1)," a Bill T. Jones classic work about the cycles of grief and joy, Ailey dancers excelled in Jones' endurance challenge. They bounded onto each other's backs, lifted each other high, slid and rolled onto the floor, propelled by the momentum of Mendelssohn's "Octet for Strings." It was refreshing to see less-featured company members stand out in this postmodern context, particularly Elisa Clark and Kanji Segawa.
While Battle's selection for this season's repertoire spanned style and century, what was so clearly missing were the voices of today's leading women choreographers. Nora Chipaumire, Camille A. Brown and Faye Driscoll: Ailey needs you.
Photo Credit: Paul Kolnik