Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2009

by Sandra Prosnitz


The company was at its best tonight with an exuberant program of pieces choreographed by its founder and principal choreographer, Alvin Ailey.


The first two parts of the program consisted of a series of dazzling highlights from various works, followed by Ailey's signature ballet, the wonderful Revelations.


I would have preferred fewer pieces and longer excerpts.   The company understands fully that they are not just dancing the steps but also setting the mood, telling the story of the ballet.    Here, one story was barely started before it was interrupted by the next. 


However, that is a minor criticism.  The choices were excellent and showed Ailey's choreographic range to great advantage.


The recorded music was sometimes too loud.  It would be nice to see Ailey use more live music.


In the first part of the program I particularly liked Movement II from Night Creature, to jaunty Duke Ellington music.   The ensemble, led by a sexy Olivia Bowman Jackson, performed the sinuous movements with joy but also with great precision.

That section of the program ended with Cry, Ailey's salute to black women.  Briana Reed danced with elegance and great feeling.


The second part was dominated by jazz music:   the performers had great fun with Dizzy Gillespie's  A Night in Tunisia, an excerpt from For "Bird" With Love, in which jazz trumpeters and sax players compete to play the best solo.   It ended with Jumpin' the Blues, an exuberant jive number from Opus McShann.


But the highlight of the evening, as always, was Revelations.   It is hard to single out individual performances, but Tina Monica Williams in Fix Me, Jesus, and Clifton Brown in I Wanna Be Ready were wonderful.   Both pieces require slow movements, great physical control and balance, and flexibility.   The dancers had all of that and also the emotional depth needed to interpret the music.


Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham had the audience on its feet, demanding an encore and clapping along with the music.  As we left the theatre, everyone was smiling and in good spirits.