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BWW Review: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater brings New Work to New York City Center

There was an explosion of talented dancers on stage at City Center on December 22, 2015. The energy was high. The dancers lit up the audience so that at the end of each piece, the outburst of applause and yells came from them. It was thrilling for everyone in the theater.

Opening the program was Exodus (world premiere) by acclaimed hip-hop choreographer Rennie Harris. Set to gospel and house music by various artists, Harris "explores the idea of "exodus" - from one's ignorance and conformity - as a necessary step toward enlightenment." Costumes by Jon Taylor were street like clothes and athletic shoes. Dancing began with slow movement, then becoming quite fast moving, then rhythmic. The city street-like image is magnified by the sound of an occasional gunshot. Mid ballet, one of the 16 dancers fell following a gunshot. Soon 4 dancers, followed by all the others, appeared wearing white clothes and athletic shoes. I wondered if they represented angels or purity and innocence. However one might interpret this, the subject matter seemed reminiscent of recent stories in the news.

Awakening is the 1st piece created by Artistic Director, Robert Battle since becoming the third person to head the Company since it was founded in 1958, and his 9th to enter the Ailey repertory. The music by John Mackey began very (too) loud, then becoming very soft, back and forth, with complex rhythms. A dozen Ailey dancers performed in this dance of "dissonance and harmony, chaos and resolution". The dancers all wore white, costumed by John Mackey. The lighting by Al Crawford was often dark, with LED lights in changing patterns on the backdrop. There was a lot of running and group entanglement. One man emerged to steer the enmeshed group, or to move himself in a circular motion, while lying on the floor. Although I was not sure what it all meant, it was riveting.

Kyle Abraham's Untitled America: First Movement (2015) is a piece for three dancers, beautifully danced with emotion by Jacqueline Green, Chalvar Monteiro, and Yannick Lebrun. This is the 1st installment of a three-part suite to be completed in 2016. Abraham "explores the lasting impact of the prison system on individuals and their families". The white costumes were created by Karen Young. Lighting was by Dan Scully.

Closing the program was another 2015 creation, the Cuban inspired, Open Door, by Ronald K. Brown. Music was by Luis Demetrio, Arturro O'Farrill and the Afro Jazz Orchestra, and Tito Puente. Finally, color had returned to the stage, with marvelous costumes by Keiko Voltaire. The dancing was splendid and colorful, too. The 10 dancers were led by the lovely Linda Celeste Sims and guest artist, Matthew Rushing, who enthralled the audience with their solos and duets. "Brown's travels to Cuba inspired much of the movement, from the salsa partnering to the references to Elegba - the Santeria god who opens pathways." This work was fun and relatable, an excellent choice to close the program.

Ailey will continue performances at City Center through January 3, 2016.

Photo Credit: Paul Kolnik


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