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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater: Ailey Classics, Revelations

- Onstage with the Dancers

Salon Ziba

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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
At New York City Center

The Company:
Hope Boykin, Jeroboam Bozeman, Sean A. Carmon
Elisa Clark, Sarah Daley, Ghrai DeVore, Antonio Douthit-Boyd
Renaldo Gardner, Vernard J. Gilmore, Jacqueline Green
Daniel Harder, Demetia Hopkins, Megan Jakel, Yannick Lebrun
Alicia Graf Mack, Michael Francis McBride, Rachael McLaren
Akua Noni Parker, Belen Pereyra, Briana Reed, Jamar Roberts
Samuel Lee Roberts, Kelly Robotham, Kanji Segawa
Glenn Allen Sims, Linda Celeste Sims, Jermaine Terry
Fana Tesfagiorgis, Marcus Jarrell Willis
Matthew Rushing: Rehearsal Director/Guest Artist

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
Bennett Rink -- Executive Director
Calvin Hunt, Senior Director, Performance and Production
Dacquiri T’Shaun Smittick, Company Manager
Christopher Zunner, Director of Public Relations
Emily Hawkins, Assoc. Director of Public Relations

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
December 24, 2013

(See Other Ailey Reviews and Photos)

Ailey Classics, All Choreography by Alvin Ailey:
Excerpts from: Memoria (1979), Night Creature (1974), Phases (1980), Opus McShann (1988), Love Songs (1972), For ‘Bird’ With Love (1984), Hidden Rites (1973), Cry (1971).

In an attempt to be immersed in all-Ailey choreography, after a night of Ailey Company Premieres by current choreographers, I chose the “Ailey Classics” repertory. I was not disappointed. Excerpts of eight Ailey works filled two-thirds of the program, including two intermissions, prior to the full performance of Ailey’s Revelations.

Memoria, a tribute to Joyce Trisler, was led by the very strong Briana Reed, a stunning dancer, wearing flowers in her hair. The Keith Jarrett score, with soaring sax and piano, keeps this piece richly textured. The Company wore vibrant costumes. Upward sweeping arms and rapid leaps mark this work, with moods of grieving to glamorous, in resplendent rapture. Night Creature was excerpted from Movements 2 and 3. Akua Noni Parker led both magnificently, under tiny lights in the dark sky backdrop. Even her eyes were flashing sparks, enhanced by the jazzy Ellington score. Gorgeous silver-blue-white costumes, evocative of human fireflies, shone as dancers were spinning, flying, and buzzing about, in rapid, rambunctious rhythms. Phases brought out an ensemble of eight, featuring Rachael McLaren, all in hot pink. Men are bare-chested and women are in ruffles. The full piece has five segments, and we saw the third, “Flight Time”, with music by L. Mizell. Each rhythm and tone in the jazz is enunciated in motion, with the flute passages most memorable.

Opus McShann was performed by two duos. Akua Noni Parker teamed with Yannick Lebrun for “Gee Baby Ain’t I Good to You”, danced with affect and humor. The music is by Jay McShann and Walter Brown. On this Christmas eve, this piece took the house down, with its outsized humor and dramatization. “Doo Wah Doo” was next, with Jermaine Terry teaming with Kirven Douthit-Boyd. Vaudevillian gesture and feverish athleticism abounded. Next was Ailey’s Love Songs, music and lyrics by Leon Russell, sung by Donny Hathaway. Jamar Roberts danced this solo in a bright blue unitard. This is a man professing eternal love, with wide armed gestures and bent torso motifs. For ‘Bird’ - with Love is danced to Dizzy Gillespie and Frank Paparelli’s “A Night in Tunisia”, performed by Dizzy and Charlie Parker. Randy Barcelo designed set and costumes. Six male dancers assume the roles of a jazz sextet (as alto sax, trumpet, piano, bass, drum, and tenor sax), and they evocatively dance as their instrument appears in the score. Four female dancers are “Women” and “Showgirls”, and one man is Club Manager. The men dance holding a sax or trumpet, dressed in jazz club finery. Women, as well, have a snazzy “club” costume, and suddenly it’s midnight in New York.

Hidden Rites was excerpted next, with a score by Patrice Sciortino, “Les Cyclopes”. Sarah Daley and Jarrell Willis partnered in minimalist, nude-colored costumes, with modernistic ornamentations by Bea Feitler. The music is contemporary with bells and chimes, and the choreography alludes to rituals of seduction and sexuality. Pelvic thrusts and wide-outstretched arms are evocative of the Graham genre. The excerpts presented Cry as a finale, with Rachael McLaren, Demetia Hopkins, and Ghrai DeVore performing this work in triple star fashion. The Voice of East Harlem performs Chuck Griffin’s piece, “Right On Be Free”. Cry was originally choreographed on Judith Jamison in 1971, and it’s still a huge hit. Danced with three women, in three white, ruffled dresses, that are lifted and whirled about in the evolution of a woman’s journey, this is a must-see work. The deep emotional tones of the music propel the deep emotional expressiveness of the dance.

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.

Every Ailey aficionado needs an annual immersion in Revelations, and tonight was mine. Happily it was performed in its entirety. From the first orchestral strains of “I Been ‘Buked”, the audience went wild. The huddled Company, in shades of brown and beige, was earthy and ethereal. Samuel Lee Roberts, Elisa Clark, and Fana Tesfagiorgis danced “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel” with grace and elegance. “Fix Me, Jesus” was danced by Ghrai DeVore and Marcus Jarrell Willis with a sublime serenity. It was immediately apparent why tonight’s program worked so well, in an all-Ailey evening, mostly in the ambiance of jazz, and now in gospel. This was a refined and resonant mix, perfect for the Holidays.

Samuel Lee Roberts, Renaldo Gardner, Kelly Robotham, and Jeroboam Bozeman performed the Processional and “Honor, Honor”, with white breezy umbrellas and costumes. These are iconic images and sounds. “Wade in the Water” was danced by Belen Pereyra, Glenn Allen Sims, and Briana Reed with reverence. Jamar Roberts performed the clutching, internalized solo on the stage floor, “I Wanna Be Ready”, followed by Daniel Harder, Yannick Lebrun, and Kanji Segawa dashing across the stage in “Sinner Man”. The Company completed “The Day is Past and Gone”, “You May Run On”, and the magnetic “Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham”, with numerous curtain calls. Kudos to Alvin Ailey.

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

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