BWW Review: ALVIN AILEY AMERICAN DANCE THEATER SUMMER 2018 ENGAGEMENT IN NEW YORK CITY at Lincoln Center
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's latest seven-performance stint at New York City's Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts reinforced that the beloved company brings an unrivaled level of artistry and athleticism to everything they do - from classical ballet to jazz and contemporary.
Under the direction of Artistic Director Robert Battle, the company's repertory for the season featured works by eight choreographers across three programs, with Alvin Ailey's must-see masterpiece Revelationsclosing each performance.
The matinee presentation we attended, entitled "Musical Icons", kicked off on a high note with Tony Award-winning choreographer Twyla Tharp's The Golden Section. It was originally the grand finale of the 1981 Broadway production The Catherine Wheel, and was staged with songs by new wave music maestro David Byrne. In dexterous partner pairings, dancers dressed in what looked like gold Jane Fonda-era jazzercise wear breathed new life into the acrobatic and cheeky choreography.
Next up was longtime Ailey star Jamar Roberts' riveting Members Don't Get Weary. The "Bessie" Award winner made his choreographic debut with this profound work in 2017, which he calls "a response to the current social landscape in America...an abstract look into the notion of one 'having the blues.'" Fittingly, ten dancers dressed in blue moved in meditative, Tai-Chi-reminiscent unison to the melancholy musical musings of jazz saxophonist and composer John Coltrane. Lighting by Brandon Stirling Baker heightened the reflective mood.
The third work was the comical Ella, originally created as a solo and reinvented by Battle as a duet for the Ailey company's December 2016 opening night gala benefit, in homage to jazz vocalist extraordinaire Ella Fitzgerald's centennial in April 2017. The breathtaking duet showcases two dancers dressed in black mimicking the frenetic notes and iconic scatting of Fitzgerald from a live concert recording of "Airmail Special."
Closing the exhilarating afternoon was Revelations, and in my opinion, no trip to see Ailey would be complete without this rousing signature work. When performed by live musicians and singers, as it was on this occasion, the accompanying traditional spirituals enliven the dance, choreographed by Alvin Ailey in 1960 -- making the tribute to his upbringing in black church even more moving. Audiences clap, cheer, and sing along from the opening notes of the plaintive "I Been Buked" to the jubilant finale (and encore), "Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham." Bravo.
Photo by Paul Kolnik