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BWW Reviews: ALVIN AILEY AMERICAN DANCE THEATER Celebrates Dudley Williams and Dance

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Nearly two weeks after famed dancer Dudley Williams' passing, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater took to the stage at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center for a fitting tribute. Though the program was already set, the sudden passing led to the addition of "A Song for You" from Love Songs and added new meaning to the rest of the evening's performances, especially for Rennie Harris' world premiere.

After a beautiful eulogy delivered by Artistic Director Emerita Judith Jamison, five dancers presented "A Song for You," a solo created by Mr. Ailey specifically for Mr. Williams. This special tribute was performed by the soloists in the current Company, who had learned the classic dance from the legend himself. It was followed by the classic jazz piece Toccata by Talley Beatty, whom Mr. Williams also danced with. This fun, vibrant, and technically savvy piece was followed by a gorgeous rendition of Tony Award winner Christopher Wheeldon's After the Rain Pas De Deux , by Linda Celeste Sims and Glenn Allen Sims.

Next came the anticipated world premiere by acclaimed hip-hop choreographer Rennie Harris. Exodus did not disappoint; it was truly phenomenal. The piece began from a dark place, reflecting on the passing of the choreographer's own mother. And with the evening dedicated to Mr. Williams, the somber tone resonated with the audience. However, as Mr. Harris often states, "Hip-hop is about the celebration of life," and so Exodus transformed into a piece of wondrous light. The music and the choreography was contagious and had the audience in a roar! In fact, Ms. Jamison, who sat directly behind me, was having the time of her life! She was also accompanied by Ms. Carmen de Lavallade, who was also thoroughly enjoying the piece!

Exodus was not a showcase of what hip-hop on stage could be or what a modern dance company can do with hip-hop. No, it was much deeper than that. The Ailey Company came onstage dancing like they have been dancing house, a style of hip hop, for years, but to merely impress the audience with their artistic versatility was not enough. Mr. Harris and the Company did not simply introduce us to the language of hip-hop; they delivered it with such poetic eloquence and intensity. Because between the solid footwork, the infectious groove, and the speed and precision was pure heart and soul. The Ailey Company danced for their lives and such energy was felt and absorbed by the audience so openly and willingly. Suddenly, the piece became something more than just entertaining - it was spiritual. This was what dance was all about. This was what the Ailey Company was all about. This was what Ms. Jamison meant as she described Mr. Williams as a dancer of the heart, mind, and spirit. And the current Ailey Company surely embodied that with Exodus.

The evening ended with the classic Revelations, and following the mood of the evening, this piece took on a whole other meaning. The culmination of the evening with this dance represented tradition, fortitude, and heart. These values brought together a community that spans generations, which included those who came before and stayed for years, like Mr. Williams, Ms. Jamison, and the many Ailey alumni who filled Lincoln Center for the evening's performance, and those who are pushing it to new heights like Mr. Harris, Artistic Director Robert Battle, and the young dreamers who sat in the audience with starry eyes. That is the power of a great dance community, and that is the power of dance.

Photo: Gert Krautbauer


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Jessica Abejar is an artist with a love of storytelling. As a dancer/choreographer, she most recently performed at World Youth Day in Brazil, where she (read more...)