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Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance Company at the Ailey Theater

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Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance Company
(Alpha Omega Website)
The Ailey Citigroup Theater
(Ailey Website)


Ellen Gaintner
October 20, 2007

Alpha Omega is new to me, and it was a pleasant surprise. A blend of modern and jazz with a strong streak of tango, Alpha Omega is celebrating its 35th anniversary this season. Two premières and three works from the past few years made up the program, with dancing by all of the company's twelve members.

Tango Entre Tú y Yo opened the evening. The dance is for four women, two of them playing men, but all of them wearing heels. The couple dancing and short solos -- tango, modern, and the occasional arabesque -- were delivered with authority and impressive eye contact with the audience. There's a lot of power and confidence in a performer who can look directly at the audience, and all of these dancers had that. Donna Clark stood out in particular, as she did throughout the evening.

In Between Heaven and Earth, Clark dances alone, until the entry of a man in all white (I figured out by the end that he was an angel) gives her a tenuous partner. He supports her and dances with her, but you never get the sense that theirs is a physical, earthly relationship. Choreographed by Artistic Director Enrique Cruz DeJesus, the duet is a tribute to Clark's father, who recently passed away. The feeling in Clark's performance was evident and very real, as were the slightly misty eyes when she took her bow. There was something very special about seeing this work, the feeling that the audience was being allowed into the private life of company members and helping them to celebrate the life of a loved one. Such a personal piece is seldom-seen, and the intimate setting of the Ailey Citigroup Theater was just right.

Another standout was Robert Villanueva, a little dynamo of a dancer who can out-jump and out-smile everyone else onstage. But he can be a moodier dancer as well, as he proved in Invisible, a somewhat brooding, contemporary solo, performed against the moving backdrop of dancers walking very slowly across the rear of the stage. In general, though, Alpha Omega boasts an excellent group of men: they turn, they jump, and they look happy doing it. In Pegao, the men gave the theater a jolt of energy. The women were very good, but it was the men who were really exciting to watch.

However, it was hard to watch any of the dancers in Cruz DeJesus's première of Through Wonder's Eyes, set to music by Stevie Wonder, so enormous was the projection screen that served as a backdrop. Against ever-changing images of nature, daily life, and war, as well as quotes, proverbs, and scrolling song lyrics, it was nearly impossible to focus on the dancers, who seemed small against the larger-than-life slideshow. Video projection is an increasingly common element in dance, but when it dominates the stage -- especially when it doesn't seem meant to dominate the stage -- it needs to be scaled back. The power of "Always," the final number, is just as evident through Wonder's repetitive lyrics as through reading the lyrics on-screen. And the power of the dancing would be that much greater if it could be seen with less distraction.

Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance Company
Tango Entre Tú y Yo
Photo Courtesy of Robert Caldarone

Alpha Omega Theatrical Dance Company
Photo Courtesy of Robert Caldarone

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at