Saturday, May 05, 2012

Alvin Ailey-2012


How many superlatives are there in the English language that can be used to describe Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s May 4 performance at the State Theatre? I could start with superlative, then transition into exciting, mesmerizing, compelling, creative, and then add powerful and dynamic. I could go on from there, but the point has been made.

The Alvin Ailey company brought the crowd to its feet several times during the production and had them standing, clapping, and dancing in the rows and aisles at the end. This was not an automatic Cleveland standing “O,” this was a well deserved tribute to one outstanding evening of dance!

Since the numbers aren’t necessarily going to be repeated in the other two presentations this weekend, going into detail about each segment isn’t necessary. It’s enough to make some general comments.

In 1958 Alvin Ailey and a group of young African-American modern dancers came onto the scene and captivated the dance world. They became legends who have performed before an estimated 23 million people in 71 countries.

When Ailey died in 1989, Judith Jamison, Ailey’s personal choice for the position, took over as Artistic Director. The question of whether the company would retain its high quality was raised. The query was answered when, in 2008, the company was recognized by a U.S. Congressional resolution for their being “a vital American cultural ambassador to the world which celebrates the African-American cultural experience.”

When Robert Battle become Artistic Director on July 1, 2011, again one of the questions was whether he could duplicate the fabled performances. Fear not dance aficionados. If the State Theatre presentation is any indication, the company is not only in good hands with Battle, but it seems to have gained a new presence.

The dancers are well-trained, skilled in dance techniques. There are no leads, no feature dancers, they are a melded unit. My notes reveal such words as powerful, gymnastic, motionless freezes, well supported lifts, torrid pace, fine interactions, lighting enhanced movements and sounds, flowing, total abandonment, strong hip thrusts, total body control, gorgeous visualizations, beautiful integration of music and movements, well selected musical pieces.

Though the entire evening was exciting, the best was saved for last, Ailey’s 1960 signature piece, REVELATIONS. Danced to traditional gospel music, highlighted by Rocka my Soul, the ten-segment composition bursts off the stage, leaving the audience standing, clapping and screaming. It’s an experience not to be missed. That number will close all three local performances.

Capsule judgement: It can only be hoped that it isn’t too long before the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater returns to the area. This is a world class dance company that deserves to be seen over and over! Hallelujah!