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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater: The Golden Section, Masekela Language, Revelations

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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
At City Center

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
Calvin Hunt, Senior Director, Performance and Production
Dacquiri T’Shaun Smittick, Company Manager
Thomas Cott, Director of Marketing
Lynette P. Rizzo, Associate Director of Marketing
Christopher Zunner, Director of Public Relations

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
December 28, 2008

(See Other Ailey Reviews and Photos)

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at 50: A Golden Anniversary Celebration (2008): Stephen Budlong, Exec. Producer, Prod. and Dir. By Amanda Rogers and Stephen Mann, Edited by Steve Pacarific. . The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, celebrating its 50th Anniversary, has a film tribute now, and it’s wonderfully detailed with voice-overs from Mr. Ailey’s biographical interviews, decades ago, stills and films of the Company in rehearsal and performance, comments from Judith Jamison, Artistic Director, and a film of Ms. Jamison dancing, when Mr. Ailey was alive and directing his company. Ms. Jamison is seen as an obvious driving force in the continued growth and success of the Company and in the creation of the new Joan Weill Center for Dance. The film tribute includes films of the Opening Ceremonies of the Center and the dance class and dance rehearsal rooms for children, community, and professionals.

The Golden Section (1983): Choreography by Twyla Tharp, Staged by Shelley Washington, Music composed and performed by David Byrne, Costume design by Santo Loquasto, Lighting design by Jennifer Tipton, Performed by the Company. I was thrilled to catch this favorite Tharp work again, although I’ve seen the Company in stronger propulsive strength in previous performances. It requires jumping into dancers’ arms like circus aerialists, running with fists in a boxing motif, leaping to and fro onto dancers and into open space, and so on. The music is electric and riveting, with surprises galore. Guillermo Asca was in outstanding dramatic form, ever the campy performer, and Rosalyn Deshauteurs was in equally muscular motion. Perhaps a matinee is too early for the psychic strength needed to pull off this dizzying dervish, but I’d love to see it again next Season. Santo Loquasto’s golden costumes shone with luster.

Masekela Language (1969): Choreography by Alvin Ailey, Restaged by Masazumi Chaya, Music: Hugh Masekela Jazz Recordings, Costumes by A. Christina Giannini, Lighting by Chenault Spence, Performed by the Company. I had heard Hugh Masekela’s jazz trumpet over the years, but knew little about him. “Looks Like It’s Safer To Be In Jail” is the program heading, and this 1969 Ailey masterpiece should now be actively in the repertoire, thanks to Masazumi Chaya’s re-staging with such detail. The dancers glare into the audience with stiff eyes and posture. The juke box takes on special relevance, as Jamar Roberts holds power over the music and the mood.

The piece is divided into eight segments, including “Fuzz”, “U Dui”, “Mace and Grenades”, and both Prologue and Epilogue. Renee Robinson, in “Bo Masekela” took my breath away, and Kirven J. Boyd was gripping in “Mace and Grenades”. The Program Notes say that Ailey “has composed a searingly painful portrait of oppression during the era of apartheid”. When violence occurs onstage, the dancers remain fixed in expression, emotionally frozen. The choreography is sensual, percussive, lyrical, and internalized. Costumes by A. Christina Giannini shine brightly in Chenault Spence’s warm spotlights. I never cease to be amazed at how many Ailey works are still to be re-staged. This was a pleasure, and I look forward to seeing it again.

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. And, of course, what would the closing Ailey review of the Season be without Revelations. Last week I saw this work with live music and vocalists, but the recorded gospels still seem to drive the raw emotional power, as the music fills City Center from stage to balcony. Antonio Douthit took on the solo, “I Wanna Be Ready”, requiring superb internal muscularity, and Gwynenn Taylor Jones and Jamar Roberts took on “Fix Me Jesus”, all with persuasive theatricality. And, the audience rocked to “Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham”.

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

Jamar Roberts
in "The Golden Section"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

AAADT Company Members
in "The Golden Section"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Matthew Rushing, Briana Reed,
Rosalyn Deshauteurs
in "Revelations"
Courtesy of Andrew Eccles

AAADT Company Members
in "Revelations"
Courtesy of Andrew Eccles

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