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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater: From Before, Strange Humors, Petite Mort, Grace
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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater: From Before, Strange Humors, Petite Mort, Grace

- Onstage with the Dancers

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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
At New York City Center

The Company:
Guillermo Asca, Kirven James Boyd, Hope Boykin, Sean A. Carmon
Sarah Daley, Ghrai DeVore, Antonio Douthit, Renaldo Gardner
Vernard J. Gilmore, Alicia Graf Mack, Jacqueline Green
Daniel Harder, Demetia Hopkins, Michael Jackson, Jr., Megan Jakel
Yannick Lebrun, Michael Francis McBride, Rachael McLaren
Aisha Mitchell, Akua Noni Parker, Belen Pereyra, Briana Reed
Jamar Roberts, Samuel Lee Roberts, Renee Robinson**
Kelly Robotham, Matthew Rushing*, Kanji Segawa, Glenn Allen Sims
Linda Celeste Sims, Jermaine Terry, Marcus Jarrell Willis
*Guest, **Retiring

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
Bennett Rink, Executive Director Designate
Calvin Hunt, Senior Director, Performance and Production
Matthew Rushing, Rehearsal Director
Dacquiri T’Shaun Smittick, Company Manager
Christopher Zunner, Director of Public Relations
Emily Hawkins, Public Relations Manager

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
December 13, 2012

(See Other Ailey Reviews and Photos)

From Before (1978): Choreography and costumes by Garth Fagan, Restaged by Natalie Rogers-Cropper, Music by Ralph MacDonald, Lighting by C.T. Oakes, Performed by Jamar Roberts, Linda Celeste Sims, and the Company.

This Garth Fagan work is being presented by Ailey Dance Theater, in its first performance by another company. Trinidadian composer, Ralph MacDonald, a Grammy Award winner, composed the score. Linda Celeste Sims and Jamar Roberts were riveting in the leads, with the company in purple, red, blue, green shimmering unitards. Mr. Roberts executed high kicks from a standing position, while Ms. Sims strutted in sultry jazz fashion, an eye-catching persona. The company was taut and thrilling, as African and jazz rhythms combined for a fusion of high energy dance genres, a fitting opening to tonight’s eclectic program. It’s unusual for the company to present four works by “outside” choreographers, that is, no works choreographed by Alvin Ailey.

Strange Humors (1998): Choreography by Robert Battle, Music by John Mackey, Costumes by Missoni, Costumes reconstructed by Jon Taylor, Lighting by Burke Wilmore, Performed by Kirven James Boyd and Samuel Lee Roberts.

The Ailey Theater’s Artistic Director, Robert Battle, choreographed this 1998 work to a John Mackey electronic score. In bright red-orange pants and bare chests, Kirven James Boyd and Samuel Lee Roberts connected and disconnected in fascinating and intertwining motion. One would wrap a leg around the other’s pelvis, one would fall, the other would fall, and both would kick into each other’s space. Geometric shapes would appear, as a human kaleidoscope of limbs. Ballroom dance quotes were occasionally seen for enhanced effect. Most obvious was the absolute muscularity of these two dynamic performers.

Petite Mort (1991) Choreography, lighting concept, and set by Jiří Kylián, Restaged by Patrick Delcroix, Music by W.A. Mozart, Costumes by Joke Visser, Lighting by Joop Caboort, Performed by the Company.

Jiří Kylián choreographed this 1991 work to two Mozart piano concertos, for a contrast of refined classicism and muscular duels. Men in beige briefs and swords are juxtaposed with women in molded black headless gowns, that tilt and wheel on and off stage, all thanks to Joke Visser’s costume design. The entire ballet is gripping and an excellent choice for new Ailey repertoire. The swords add edge to this series of duets and ensemble dance. There’s wit, camp, and tense interaction, a winning combination for mesmerizing theater. This is why this company calls itself “Theater”. Each performance exudes drama, culture, and aestheticism.

Grace (1999): Choreography by Ronald K. Brown, Assistant to Mr. Brown: Arcell Cabuag, 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 Linda Celeste Sims, Demetia Hopkins, Matthew Rushing, and the Company.

Grace, a 1999 Ronald K. Brown work, leaves the audience humming Ellington’s “Come Sunday” endlessly in rewind. The piece is hypnotic and alluring, building from American spiritual to African modern. The silky costumes by Omatayo Wunmi Olaiya are sleek and sensual. The rear backdrop opens and closes for dramatic entrances and exits, with Linda Celeste Sims, as always, resplendent and sublime. She, and the other leads, Demetia Hopkins and Matthew Rushing, move with swirling gyrations and ebullient animation. Next to Revelations, which I unfortunately missed this season, Grace is a must-revisit modern ballet. It satisfies the viewer, on visual, musical, and emotional realms.

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

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in
Garth Fagan's "From Before"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Samuel Lee Roberts and Kirven James Boyd in
Robert Battle's "Strange Humors"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in
Ronald K. Brown's "Grace"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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