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Alvin Ailey Ameican Dance Theater: Night Creature, Journey, The Prodigal Prince, Love Stories
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Alvin Ailey Ameican Dance Theater: Night Creature, Journey, The Prodigal Prince, Love Stories

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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
At New York City Center

Alvin Ailey – Founder
Judith Jamison – Artistic Director Emerita
Robert Battle – Artistic Director
Masazumi Chaya – Associate Artistic Director
Joan H. Weill, Chairman of the Board of Trustees
Sharon Gersten Luckman --Executive Director
Calvin Hunt, Senior Director, Performance and Production
Dacquiri T’Shaun Smittick, Company Manager
Christopher Zunner, Director of Public Relations
Emily Hawkins, Public Relations Manager

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
December 6, 2011

(See Other Ailey Reviews and Photos)

Night Creature (1974): Choreography by Alvin Ailey, Music by Duke Ellington (“Night Creature”), Costumes by Jane Greenwood, Costumes recreated by Barbara Forbes, Lighting by Chenault Spence, Performed by Renee Robinson, Vernard J. Gilmore, and the Company. Ailey’s 1974 jazzy work is an homage to Ellington's repertory, danced in Jane Greenwood’s stunning silver-blue-white costumes. One imagines human fireflies, spinning, flying, and buzzing about, in rapid, rambunctious rhythms. Ms. Robinson and Mr. Gilmore were joined by the Company in astounding muscularity and magnetic force. Tonight was my first night of the Season, and Robert Battle, the Ailey Company’s new Artistic Director, has everything in order and the dancers in fine form. Everything was familiar and comfortable, as this Company has signed a long-term lease with the newly re-furnished New York City Center. Ms. Robinson is a seasoned pro, and her Graham-like pelvic gestures and deep back bends were striking to observe. Mr. Gilmore seized the stage and leaped about with fervor. The Ellington score must have moved Mr. Ailey to include endless swirling and gyrating hips. The Company also looked grand in City Center’s new lighting system.

Journey (1958): Choreography by Joyce Trisler, Restaged by Diane Grumet, Music performed by Joshua Frank on trumpet, Christina Curtin on violin, Alex Greenbaum on cello, Christopher Johnson on flute, Costumes by Malcolm McCormick, Lighting by Nicola Cernovitch, Performed by Linda Celeste Sims. With a live music ensemble onstage, performing on trumpet, violin, cello, and flute, the quintessentially grand Linda Celeste Sims moves to Charles Ives’ “The Unanswered Question”. Ms. Sims wears an all-white unitard with long sleeves and a white tunic as cover. The atonality of the score, with slight melodic tinges, melds with the sensational choreography. Ms. Sims picks up her legs, one at a time, and moves like she’s swimming in air. This is a piece I hope to revisit often.

The Prodigal Prince (1968): Choreography, music, and costumes by Geoffrey Holder, Assts. to the Choreographer, Masazumi Chaya and Matthew Rushing, Lighting and stage effects by Clifton Taylor, Performed by Kirven James Boyd as Hector Hyppolite, Briana Reed as Erzulie Freda Dahomey, Clifton Brown as Saint John the Baptist, Renee Robinson as The Mambo/Le Serviteur, Michael Francis McBride as Spirit/Pret-Savanne, and the Company as Erzulie’s Retinue and Companions of Pret-Savanne.

On revisiting The Prodigal Prince, Geoffrey Holder’s 1968 Haitian story dance, about Hector Hyppolite, a renowned folk artist, I focused this time not on the symbolism or historical import, but, rather, on the visual colors and lighting, so resplendent in City Center’s new lighting system. Everything looked more primal, more powerful, more gripping. It’s rare that a choreographer puts music and costume design to his own choreography, and The Prodigal Prince seems like a complete folkloric event in itself. One immediately senses the presence of spiritual demons and sprites in the African rhythmic drums and ambient vocals. There’s a deep mysterious quality to this ballet, dark and surreal, and the plot is secondary and diffuse, compared to the hypnotic tempos and theatrics. The Prodigal Prince is a fascinating show, a visual, imaginative feast.

Love Stories (2004): Choreography Judith Jamison with Robert Battle and Rennie Harris, Asst. to Rennie Harris: Nina Flagg, Music by Stevie Wonder & Clarence Paul-Henry Cosby, Original composition by Darrin Ross, Costumes by Susan Hilferty, Costume Assistant: Maiko Matsushima, Lighting and visual design by Al Crawford, Performed by Marcus Jarrell Willis, Sarah Daley, Belen Estrada, Rachel McLaren, Aisha Mitchell, Akua Noni Parker, Sean A. Carmon, Kanji Segawa, Renaldo Gardner, Michael Jackson, Jr., Daniel Harder.

Steve Wonder never sounded better or more potent. This swinging work, created in 2004 by Judith Jamison, along with Robert Battle and Rennie Harris, has the 11 dancers in shorts, leotards, and jumpsuits. Ms. Jamison’s concept meshes percussive choreography and music with historical clips of Ailey's voice and writings. There’s also a cathedral setting, bookending the dance. The lighting and visual design by Al Crawford is central to this work, with flashing and flickering and fading lights, so symbolic, so surreal. In fact, the finale has the dancers facing stage rear, perhaps toward Mr. Ailey himself, with hanging tubes of light that could signify the heavens. This work is imbued with devotion, dedication, and destiny.

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

Linda Celeste Sims in
Joyce Trisler's "Journey"
Courtesy of Andrew Eccles

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