BWW Review: ALVIN AILEY AMERICAN DANCE THEATER at The Kennedy Center

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater began its weeklong stay in D.C. on Tuesday night with a beautiful gala night performance. The company opened with Jamar Roberts' Members Don't Get Weary. The program notes frame the piece with a quote from Ralph Ellison about the blues: "The blues is an impulse to keep the painful details and episodes of a brutal experience alive in one's aching consciousness... to transcend it." The piece did a great job of translating that impulse into dance. The costumes were abstractions of farm workers' clothing and prison uniforms, and the choreography was full of sharp elbows and contractions. But amongst the pain telegraphed by the dancers, there was energy and excitement too. The piece built to a momentous climax, with the whole company dancing together in perfect sync.

Twyla Tharp's The Golden Section was full of energy, athleticism, and humor. The company flawlessly executed an incredible series of lifts and acrobatics, practically using each other as jungle gyms. There was a catchy, consistent rhythm that ran through the selected David Byrne tracks and found its way into the dancers' smallest movements as well. The company was clearly having a ball despite the incredibly demanding choreography, and that joy easily spread to the audience.

Last up was Revelations by the master Alvin Ailey himself. Revelations was the piece that first shot Ailey and his company to fame in the early 1960s, but based on last night's performance it's fair to say that the choreography is ageless. Revelations is set to nine traditional gospel songs, stunningly arranged. Clifton Brown performed an achingly beautiful solo to "I Wanna Be Ready". Linda Celeste Sims and Jamar Roberts captured something tender and divine in their pas de deux to "Fix Me, Jesus". And the company brought the gossip, worship, and community of a black church service to life in the final section of the piece. Revelations is one of the best pieces of dance-based story telling I've seen. It's detailed and specific without sacrificing the physicality of excellent choreography. If you have the opportunity to see this piece of dance history, I highly urge you to do so.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will be at the Kennedy Center through Sunday, February 11th, 2018 for a sold-out run. The opening program ran approximately 2 hours.

Photo credit: Gert Krautbauer


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From This Author Hannah Landsberger