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Aaron Atkins' Ballet Inc. Presents '667 – Miles' Away at The Ailey Citigroup Theater
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Aaron Atkins' Ballet Inc. Presents '667 – Miles' Away at The Ailey Citigroup Theater

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Ballet Inc.

Aaron Atkins, Choreographer, Artistic Director
(Atkins Facebook Page)

’667 – Miles’ Away

The Ailey Citigroup Theater
(Ailey Studios Web Page)

Edgar L. Peterson III, Executive Director

Khiara M. Bridges, Kara Cooper, Craig Dionne, Kyla Ernst-Alper,
Allie Gee, Sabrina Imamura, Malik Shabazz Kitchen, Scott Lewis,
Shannon McColl, Genene McGrath, Amanda Montanaro,
Major Nesby, JoVonna Parks, Courtney Sauls,
Lila Simmons, Chloe Slade, Dona Wiley


Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
July 20, 2014

All Choreography by Aaron Atkins.

Battleground Premiere, Music by Kevin Keller.
Coeur Silencieux Premiere, Music – “My Funny Valentine” by Rodgers/Hart, performed by Ruede/Laird.
Untitled Music by Kevin Volans/Kronos Quartet.
Rain Premiere, Music by various contemporary artists, Spoken Vocals by Khiara M. Bridges.
Fallen Angels Premiere, Music by Alva Noto + Ryuichi Sakamoto, Byetone, Schubert, Spoken Vocals by Gisela Quinteros.
Meminisse Music by various contemporary artists.
Examinis Music by Arvo Pärt.
Jamais Ton Premiere, Music by Arvo Pärt, Erik Satie, Spoken Vocals by Noemie Blanchard.
You May Have Made the Sun Cry Premiere, Music by James Blake.
Arena Premiere, Music by Bach, Handel.

In the midst of summer, at the Ailey Theater, a small dance company was discovered, Aaron Atkins’ Ballet Inc. They put on a program of ten ballets, most premieres, each with two or more dancers, even a large ensemble. Battleground, for seven dancers, moving to a modern string score, with black, two-piece costumes (one woman was in white), was highly synchronized with moments of silence. The lifts were elegant. Coeur Silencieux, or “Silent Heart”, was danced to “My Funny Valentine”, a song from Rodgers and Hart’s Babes in Arms. Kara Cooper and Scott Lewis danced dramatically against a red lit backdrop. The music was played on recorded (all music in the program was recorded) piano and cello. The size difference of the two dancers made this work more fascinating, as the woman seemed frail and filled with angst against her tall, male partner. A sense of yearning emanated from the work.

Untitled was danced on different levels by an ensemble of eleven. Stretching motifs were followed by a man swinging a woman on his arms, very physical. Two dancers, Khiara M. Bridges and Edgar Peterson danced the Rain duo, with spoken words and contemporary music. Ms. Bridges took off her high heels, revealing ballet slippers. Her projected face, a grainy image with no makeup, was in the backdrop, with a variety of emotional gestures, like a Greek chorus silently echoing her mood. Mr. Peterson wore a white shirt, business vest, and pants, against which Ms. Bridges tossed and turned, in angst. He undresses her to her black lingerie, and then dresses her again, as she seems empty of energy.

Fallen Angels, for six dancers, was next, with a mixed music score, listed above. Courtney Sauls, Chloe Slade, and Craig Dionne also performed solos. All six wore black jackets, in a casual chic motif. Spoken vocals were pulsating, with one solo flirtatious and seductive. The three solos were danced with urgency and undulating rhythms. Craig Dionne was costumed in white, just as one woman in Battleground had also worn white, with the ensemble in black.

Meminisse, for five dancers moving to contemporary music, brought women out in ballet slippers. Music seemed randomly clipped, as was the lighting and choreography, fragmented and stark. Examinis was a huge crowd pleaser, with the same Arvo Pärt score (“Spiegel im Spiegel” for violin and piano), so memorable in Wheeldon’s After the Rain. In fact, the Atkins choreography evoked some similarities, but more on stage level, with rapturous lifts and eloquent intertwining bodies. The exceptional duo here was Kyla Ernst-Alper and Scott Lewis. Jamais Ton was performed in two sections, by Chloe Slade and Edgar Peterson. First, and Arvo Pärt piece, with added French vocals, by Noemie Blanchard, evoked some intrinsic distress, and then a Satie “Gymnopédie” repeated a motif of encircling arms in contrasting closeness and distance.

A huge surprise was Kyla Ernst-Alper’s performance of You Have Made the Sun Cry. A giant swath of bright, orange-gold silk hung from the rafters for climbing, twisting, wrapping, and so on. Ms. Ernst-Alper, requisitely muscular, quickly climbed the thick silk rope, in a quite treacherous display of courage and talent. The silk wound about one leg or ankle, as she turned upside down and right-side up, all within the lyrical music. This was especially impressive when one realizes she had just danced, after intermission. The audience was breathless. Aaron Atkins’ final work was Arena, danced to Bach and Handel, with dynamic organ solos piped into the theater. An ensemble of eleven, led by Courtney Sauls and Major Nesby, all in black, danced to choral passages and the imploding organ chords. Men danced in tights, bare-chested, with dancers lunging onto each other in an imagery exuding lust or anguish. Some of this dance was evocative of Paul Taylor’s Promethean Fire. Once again there was one woman wearing white.

As a suggestion, since there were so many short works and premieres tonight, and since the order of works was switched just before the curtain, in the future, a workshop style presentation would be productive for this fairly new company. In fact, I once attended a new modern dance company’s workshop in the Ailey Center, but in a large studio space. The crowd was seated in a circle, intimately around the dancers, with space for entering and exiting. The room was well lit, to allow the audience to focus on the program details and to take notes. After the presentation (maybe five or six works, no intermission), the company sat on chairs in the center space, answering questions and taking suggestions. It was not only educational, but the new company bonded with its audience to cultivate subscribers and potential donors, as well. Dancers and staff then mingled with the audience at a reception, to further bond. In the case of the silk aerial dance, one might save that for another event, if it could not be improvised for a studio space. Again, this is just a suggestion. Meanwhile, all of tonight’s presentations were worth the experience. .

Major Nesby, Malik Kitchen, Craig Dionne in "Battleground"
Courtesy of Anna Domenigoni

Kyla Ernst-Alper in "You May Have Made the Sun Cry"
Courtesy of Anna Domenigoni

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