The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater 2013: Magical, As Always

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Dancers dressed in green and blue dancing onstage Who doesn’t love the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, right? I have seen the Company perform every year for the past 10 years (usually on New Year’s Eve), and each time, it doesn’t disappoint. It uplifts. It is a magical thing to see Black dancers dominate a stage, especially if you grew up taking classes at NYC ballet companies and you were the only Black girl in the class. Or you see The Nutcracker as a kid, thinking it’s a festive thing to do for the holidays, and there are no Black dancers onstage – at all.

The whole image of Black men and women – dancers – onstage – supporting each other, catching each other, leaping in the air towards each other, smiling at each other, grooving & moving, running into each other’s arms…that scene in itself, is a magical thing – one that I look forward to each year.

It’s one that we don’t see at other companies.

And so every City Center season in December, I set out to be strategic in choosing which day to see the Company perform. I try to pick the days that feature World Premieres, Company Premieres and New Productions. My rationale is that I’ve seen Revelations and other pieces choreographed by Mr. Ailey a zillion times, so why not choose something else?

Well, the fact is, Revelations caps my year off and brings it to a spiritual close. And if married couple Glenn Allen Sims and Linda Celeste Sims are performing the “Fix Me Jesus” section, even better. The Sunday afternoon performance featured two other dancers, and they were just fine. The point is in the story – the story of the African American experience in America dating back to slavery – the good (not much good to report), the bad and the triumph. As quoted in autobiographical notes about Mr. Ailey, “When he [Ailey] began creating dances, he drew upon his ‘blood memories’ of Texas, the blues, spirituals, and gospel as his inspiration, which resulted in the creation of his most popular and critically acclaimed work, Revelations.”

And this 2013 holiday season lives up to the founder’s vision.

Aside from the magnificent Revelations, Chroma, a Company Premiere choreographed by Wayne McGregor, was performed with precision – no easy task, I imagine, especially because the speed and technicality demanded of the dancers seemed grueling, but exciting, nonetheless. In one scene, the glorious gazelle-like Alicia Graf Mack curved her leg so high up behind her back, I thought she was going to injure herself. Instead, she was composed; the maneuver was effortless. And Linda Celeste Sims was commanding in strength and execution. No surprises there. Featuring music by rocker Jack White of The White Stripes as well as Joby Talbot, Chroma’s set was beautifully lit with a white, sparse “environment” designed by John Pawson.

Lastly, Home by Rennie (Lorenzo) Harris was a trip down “deep-house” (or gospel house) music’s memory lane. The party that took place onstage that afternoon felt like a reincarnation of NYC clubs “Area” or “The Garage” in the 80’s. The Ailey dancers embodied the dancers from those beloved clubs, soulfully and rhythmically. Jacqueline Green was the standout here – the leader of the pack, hands down.

AAADT’s City Center Season ends on January 5th and heads out for an international tour. The performance schedule is available at alvinailey.org.

May the magic continue.