Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater: Grace, Episodes, Revelations
-Onstage with the Dancers
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Alvin Ailey - Founder
Judith Jamison - Artistic Director
Joan H. Weill, Chairman, Board of Trustees
Masazumi Chaya - Associate Artistic Director
Sharon Gersten Luckman — Executive Director
Calvin Hunt, General Manager/Director of Production
Amadea Edwards Andino, Manager of Administration
Dacquiri T'Shaun Smittick, Company Manager
Jodi Pam Krizer, Director, Marketing and Public Relations
Lynette Rizzo, Associate Director, Marketing
Beth Olsen - Associate Director, Public Relations
Cohn Davis Associates — Publicity
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
December 21, 2004
Originally Published on ExploreDance.com
Grace (1999): Choreography by Ronald K. Brown, Assistants to Mr. Brown, Angelica Patterson, Telly Fowler, Music: Various Artists (Duke Ellington, Roy Davis, Jr., Paul Johnson, Fela Kuti), Costumes by Omatayo Wunmi Olaiya, Lighting by William H. Grant III, Performed by Renee Robinson, Asha Thomas, Dwana Adiaha Smallwood, Linda Celeste Sims, Briana Reed, Venus Hall, Matthew Rushing, Amos J. Machanic, Jr., Glenn Allen Sims, Abdur-Rahim Jackson, Vernard J. Gilmore, Clifton Brown.
Tonight's high-powered presentation of three, signature Ailey Dance Theater works was the high point of the Fall Season at City Center. Can music be seen? Can music be felt? One can imagine a force of sound and rhythm that is palpable, as bodies are thrust into and repelled by space. Grace is partly about the power of muscularity and motion, with walking, running, leaping, jumping, hurtling, spinning, tossing, lifting, carrying, and inter-connecting, all with the faster or slower thematic scores. These scores include jazz, African contemporary, rock, and gospel. Renee Robinson and Matthew Rushing were mesmerizing and monumental in this serious post-Ailey work, as were Asha Thomas and Amos J. Machanic, Jr. In fact, Grace is a highlight of the newer repertoire, with Olaiya's stark red or white costumes, Grant's theatrical lighting, dramatic entrances and exits, and Ronald K. Brown's choreographic counterpoint of slow/fast/intense/cathartic imagery.
Grace has suspended moments of aloneness, frenzied moments of bonding, frenetic moments of emotional release, and interesting moments of cultural motifs. Grace is a work I enjoy time and time again.
Episodes (1989): Choreography by Ulysses Dove, Restaged by Masazumi Chaya, Original Music by Robert Ruggieri, Costumes by Jorge Gallardo, Lighting Design by John B. Reade, Performed by Linda-Denise Fisher-Harrell, Briana Reed, Asha Thomas, Venus Hall, Glenn Allen Sims, Dion Wilson, Clyde Archer, Abdur-Rahim Jackson, Samuel Deshauteurs.
Episodes is another flawless work, choreographed by Ulysses Dove. With crashing electronic percussion and perhaps the most physical and psychical dance movement ever seen onstage, this is a searing storm of potent passion, vivacity and violence, lightning leaps, and electrifying energy. The blackness of space and solos in spotlight are quintessential Ailey Dance Theater. Ruggieri's surreal score is magnetizing. Linda-Denise Fisher-Harrell, Briana Reed, Glenn Allen Sims, and Dion Wilson gave tour de force performances, worthy of the highest accolades. Tonight's audience was audibly energized with the power of all three pieces.
Revelations (1960): Choreography by Alvin Ailey; Music, Traditional; Décor and Costumes by Ves Harper; Costumes for "Rocka My Soul" Redesigned by Barbara Forbes; Lighting by Nicola Cernovitch; Performed by the Company.
On tonight's viewing of Revelations, I focused on the lighting and sets. In I Been ÃŽBuked, the first gospel, danced by the Company in costumes of browns and earth shadings, the golden lighting against skin and material is an ethereal vision, with outstretched arms like winged birds at sea. Sinner Man is set against a backdrop of blood red, watercolor effects, abstract, yet metaphoric. You May Run On and Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham, with the large yellow sun, silver stools, yellow dresses, fans, and hats, and men in formal dress, warm the soul in rousing refrains that sometimes lead to encores and audience participation. In each experience, Revelations "reveals" new images, new emotions, new choreography, and increased desire to see it yet again.
Guillermo Asca danced one of the most riveting roles, I Wanna be Ready, with perfected inner muscularity in this work of floor contractions and torso lifts. Revelations is a timeless tribute to Alvin Ailey.