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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater: Firebird, Unfold, The Groove to Nobody's Business, Saddle Up!
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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
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Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
December 19, 2007


(See Other Ailey Reviews and Photos)

Firebird (1970): Choreography by Maurice Béjart, Restaged by Shonach Mirk Robles, Music by Igor Stravinsky (“The Firebird Suite”), Costume design by Joëlle Roustan and Roger Bernard, Performed by Clifton Brown, Jamar Roberts, Linda Celeste Sims, Alicia Graf, Ebony Haswell, Kirven J. Boyd, Glenn Allen Sims, Amos J. Machanic, Jr., Vernard J. Gilmore, Malik Le Nost..

There is little to compare in the 1970 Béjart choreography for Stravinsky’s “The Firebird Suite” and the 1949 Balanchine-Robbins choreography on the same score. I had been familiar with the latter ballet, one of exotic fantasy, rural romance, and a fanciful wedding, all danced against Marc Chagall’s iconic backdrops. Bejart’s stark ballet, however, features a male Firebird in a brilliant red unitard, an ensemble in military grey, and a cloned Firebird, who appears at the finale, emblazoning the stage with splashes of extra red. The music remains the same, but the stage dance shifts through swirling, quasi-marching, quasi-flying motifs, in unison or individually. Clifton Brown, as the quintessential Firebird, in feverish frenzy or possessed pride, is clearly the focus, and all eyes are on this artist who is a fast-rising star.

This is an Ailey repertory ballet I look forward to seeing again, as most Ailey Company works become engrained and integrated, season after season. Stravinsky’s final notes generate onstage dramatic imagery, as the cloned Firebird arrives, and the ensemble seems to morph into a human platform to support these potent figures. Kudos to Judith Jamison for the inspiration and boldness to mount Béjart’s lesser-known Firebird.


Unfold (2005): Choreography by Robert Battle, Assistant to the Choreographer: Kanji Segawa, Music by Leontyne Price, Costume design by Jon Taylor, Lighting design by Linda Erbs, Performed by Linda Celeste Sims and Clifton Brown.

On second viewing, I found this brief, but mesmerizing duo dance even more riveting. Amazingly, Clifton Brown was back onstage (right after intermission) in a work that requires infinite strength and flexibility. Linda Celeste Sims and Mr. Brown connect and disconnect, as Mr. Brown walks in a trance-like line. Ms. Sims grabs onto his ankle, their bodies intertwine and separate. Many wonderful works have been newly introduced to this season’s Ailey audience, and all for the best.


The Groove to Nobody’s Business (2007): Choreography by Camille A. Brown, Assistant to the Choreographer: Francine E. Ott & Clarice Young, Music by Ray Charles and Brandon McCune, Costume design by Carolyn Meckha Cherry, Lighting design by Dalila Kee, Scenic design by J. Wiese, Performed by Matthew Rushing, Renee Robinson, Hope Boykin, Olivia Bowman, Kirven J. Boyd, Jamar Roberts, Linda Celeste Sims, Guillermo Asca, and Glenn Allen Sims.

Today’s cast (my second viewing) was theatrical and unleashed. Renee Robinson, Hope Boykin, and Olivia Bowman entertained with spirit and spring-like effervescence, while Linda Celeste Sims appeared with captivating charm and buoyancy, minutes after her powerful performance in the previous work. The interior train scenes featured Ms. Sims, Guillermo Asca, and Glenn Allen Sims, as the businessman in the suit. Camille A. Brown’s ballet depicts a slice of New York.


Saddle Up! (2007): Choreography by Fredrick Earl Mosley, Assistants to the Choreographer: Michael McBride, Alenka Cizmesija, and Ellenore Scott, Music by Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, and Mark O’Connor, Costume design by Ann Hould Ward, Scenic and Lighting design by Al Crawford, Performed by the Company.

Fredrick Earl Mosley’s Saddle Up!, a new work this season, evokes a distilled image of George Balanchine’s Western Symphony. Saddle Up! is danced to a series of recorded clips of music by Yo-Yo Ma, Edgar Meyer, and Mark O’Connor. Clifton Brown is the “New Sheriff in Town”, and the ballet segments include, besides the Sheriff’s introduction, “Till Death Do Us Part”, “Showdown!”, “Perfect Fit”, “Lady Like”, “Hidden Treasure”, “May I Have This Dance”, and “Hoedown!”. There are: a hobby horse, dancing gals, an elegant lady, cowboy hats, a lady in a boa, and some great dancing. Gwynenn Taylor Jones was captivating in “Perfect Fit”, and Renee Robinson was glamorous in “Hidden Treasure”. Matthew Rushing, Glen Allen Sims, Clifton Brown, Abdur-Rahim Jackson, and Kirven J. Boyd provided the raunchy ranch dance bravado.

Kudos to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater for another memorable and monumental season. You can catch them on tour by checking www.ailey.org.



Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
in Maurice Béjart’s Firebird
Photo by Paul Kolnik.



Clifton Brown in Maurice Béjart’s Firebird
Photo by Paul Kolnik.



Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
in Camille A. Brown’s The Groove To Nobody’s Business
Photo by Paul Kolnik.



Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
in Camille A. Brown’s The Groove To Nobody’s Business
Photo by Paul Kolnik.




Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
in Fredrick Earl Mosley’s Saddle Up!
Photo by Paul Kolnik.



Linda Celeste Sims and Company
in Fredrick Earl Mosley’s Saddle Up!
Photo by Paul Kolnik.




For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at zlokower@bestweb.net