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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater: Best of 20 Years, Revelations

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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
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Alvin Ailey – Founder
Judith Jamison – Artistic Director
Joan H. Weill, Chairman of the Board of Trustees
Masazumi Chaya – Associate Artistic Director
Sharon Gersten Luckman --Executive Director
Calvin Hunt, Senior Director, Performance and Production
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Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
December 20, 2009

(See Other Ailey Reviews and Photos)

Best of 20 Years: All Restaged and Excerpted by Masazumi Chaya except Treading.

Program: The Stack-Up (1982) (Choreography by Talley Beatty), Grace 1999) (Choreography by Ronald K. Brown), North Star (1978) (Choreography by Lar Lubovitch), Following the Subtle Current Upstream (2000) (Choreography by Alonzo King), Shelter (1988) (Choreography by Jawole Willa Jo Zollar), Frames (1992) (Choreography by Dwight Rhoden), Bad Blood (1984) (Choreography by Ulysses Dove), Treading (1979) (Choreography by Elisa Monte), Rainbow Round My Shoulder (1959) (Choreography by Donald McKayle), Dance at the Gym (1991) (Choreography by Donald Byrd), Jukebox for Alvin (1993) (Choreography by Garth Fagan), Lettres D’Amour (1998) (Choreography by Redha), Polish Pieces (1995) (Choreography by Hans van Manen), The Winter in Lisbon (1992) (Choreography by Billy Wilson).

With thirteen excerpts and one entire short work (Treading), Best of 20 Years zipped by onstage with no pauses or applause in between. It was impossible to either check the program listings or memorize the titles of these pieces, and there was barely a way to recall which was which. I did recall Ronald K. Brown’s 1999 Grace, danced to Duke Ellington’s “Come Sunday” by Matthew Rushing, in a striking white tunic, moving faster than the bluesy score, seamlessly fluent like waves of the ocean, and I was able to note my pleasure watching Talley Beatty’s 1982 opening piece for the Company ensemble, The Stack-Up, with its dynamic, pulsating score (“Faces”) by Phillip Bailey, Larry Dunn, Maurice White, and Verdine White. I noted that Dwight Rhoden’s 1992 Frames, an impressive solo for Clifton Brown, included Mr. Brown’s holding red roses, while wearing brief shorts, sitting on a chair at times, dancing to lyrics about a relationship’s demise.

Ulysses Dove’s 1984 Bad Blood was performed by Rachael McLaren and Jamar Roberts to Laurie Anderson’s electronic score in white tights and unitard. This work was tense and riveting, as Ms. McLaren jumped onto Mr. Roberts’ torso, as he undulated his pelvis, flat on the stage floor. But, my favorite of the fourteen was Elisa Monte’s 1979 Treading, a familiar work to Ailey fans, as it’s been seen often in recent years. Tonight Constance Stamatiou and Glenn Allen Sims were the two spotlighted figures on the blackened stage, with crustacean-like arms outstretched in gripping imagery. Now you see Mr. Sims, now you see Ms. Stamatiou, now both are crawling though the other’s legs and upper body. I never tire of this imaginative and surreal work.

Other works I recall in snippets are Lar Lubovitch’s 1978 North Star, set to Philip Glass’ “Anges des Orages”, danced by Olivia Bowman Jackson, Yannick Lebrun, Josh Johnson, and Abdur-Rahim Jackson. The dancers created motion that matched the swelling, repetitive phrases of the Glass harmonies. Donald McKayle’s 1959 Rainbow Round My Shoulder was Linda Celeste Sims’ solo tonight, to music arranged from “the collection of John and Alan Lomax”, titled, “The Dream (Sweetheart/Mother/Wife)”. Matthew Rushing’s second solo, Garth Fagan’s 1993 Jukebox for Alvin, presented Antonin Dvorak’s music (no reference), while the entire ensemble re-appeared for Manteca, a segment from Billy Wilson’s 1992 The Winter in Lisbon. Dizzy Gillespie’s music and Linda Celeste Sims and Amos J. Machanic, Jr., as lead dancers, closed out this fourteenth work in tonight’s extravaganza, which was choreographed as a tribute to Gary DeLoatch.

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.

For my third Revelations within the two weeks I attended Ailey performances, Vernard J. Gilmore was cast in I Wanna Be Ready, and he exuded substantial control and athleticism in this slow, determined Ailey favorite. Linda Celeste Sims and Glenn Allen Sims were joined by Renee Robinson tonight for an outsized rendition of Wade in the Water, and Briana Reed and Anthony Burrell danced Fix Me, Jesus with dynamic theatricality. I miss Revelations already.

Kudos to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. You can catch them on tour by checking

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
in "Revelations"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Alvin Ailey's "Revelations"
Courtesy of Nan Melville

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