Review: Alvin Ailey II Is Electrifying In Their ‘New Program’ at NYU Skirball
By Bethany Hopta, Contributing Writer, April 5, 2017
Ailey II was founded in 1974 and was conceived by Alvin Ailey to establish a cultural community that provides opportunities for dance performances, education, and community programs. Inclusivity and outreach as well as combining new choreography and energetic, talented dancers are the hallmarks of this institution.
Ailey II’s New Program debuted at the Skirball Center last week, and it electrified the stage. Comprised of three very different pieces, the company’s skills were showcased for a riveted audience.
The evening began with Circular, choreographed by Jae Man Joo. The company wore physique-emphasizing costumes designed by Christine Darch. The men were clad in shorts and pants, and the women wore shorts and tops of varied style: tanks, short-sleeved shirts, long-sleeved shirts. The clothing’s neutral grey color skimmed the bodies of the dancers, as if removing any impediment of motion. The accompanying music was mostly instrumental and provided a hauntingly beautiful score. The dancers were flawless, moving as a unit at times, and also in small groups, duets, and individually, all the while exuding a powerful grace. A duet, performed by Jacoby Pruitt and Christopher R. Wilson, was both a powerhouse of strength and lyrical, flowing movement. The lighting design by Rob Ross transformed the stage to highlight both areas of the stage and areas of the dancer’s bodies.
Modern choreography and dress met a classical music score in Marcus Jarrell Willis’s Stream of Consciousness. Mr. Willis, a former Ailey company member, has created a piece that gives action to emotion and inner thought. Performed by three female and three male dancers, the scene was set with the use of fog which filtered the light (designed by Brandon Stirling Baker) and gave a dreamy feel to the piece. The use of light and shadow helped emphasize the sharp movements conveying different emotions and the fluid motions of the dream sequence. The score, Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, provided a sharp melodic background to the choreography. Costumes, designed by Naomi Luppescu, were reminiscent of school uniforms: white shirts and black pleated skirts or pants for the ladies and white shirts with black ties and black shorts for the men. The variety of movement made this piece compelling to watch.
The evening concluded with the fiery Sketches of Flames, choreographed by Bridget L. Moore and featured the company’s twelve dancers. The lush score of flamenco and folk songs provided the backdrop for powerful, high-energy dancing and emphasized the youth and the skill of the dancers. Carolyn Meckha Cherry provided an effective visual with costume design: the women wore short red unitards with cut out backs and then long skirts on the bias were added for the more lyrical aspects of the piece. The men wore black pants. Overall, the effect of the costumes and the lighting (Burke Brown) transported the audience. The duet performed by Tara Bellardini and Lloyd Boyd III was beautifully executed in both movement and emotion.
If you missed these performances by Ailey II, make a point to see them the next time they are performing. This is a New York City-based treasure that should be treasured.
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Ailey II in New Program at the NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts, 566 Laguardia Place, on March 29-April 2, 2017. Artistic Director, Troy Powell.
Circular; choreography by Jae Man Joo; music by various artists (Edison Denisov, Nico Muhly, George Frideric Handel, Richard Reed Parry); costume design by Christine Darch; lighting design by Rob Ross. Dancers: Tara Bellardini, Lloyd A. Boyd III, Khalia Campbell, Gabriel Hyman, Yazzmeen Laidler, Jacob Lewis, Jessica Amber Pinkett, Jacoby Pruitt, Martell Ruffin, Courtney Celeste Spears, Christopher R. Wilson, and Terri Ayanna Wright.
Stream of Consciousness; choreography by Marcus Jarrell Willis; music by Vivaldi, The Four Seasons; costume design by Naomi Luppescu; lighting design by Brandon Stirling Baker. Dancers: Khalia Campbell, Tara Bellardini, Gabriel Hyman, Jacob Lewis, Martell Ruffin, and Courtney Celeste Spears.
Sketches of Flames; choreography by Bridget L. Moore; music by various artists (Laszio Borteri & Nicko Radic, Renaud Garcia-Fons & David Pena Dorantes, Manual Salado, Gerard Ferrer, Camaron de las Isla); costume design by Carolyn Meckha Cherry; lighting design by Burke Brown. Dancers: Tara Bellardini, Llyod A. Boyd III, Khalia Campbell, Gabriel Hyman, Yazzmeen Laidler, Jacob Lewis, Jessica Amber Pinkett, Jacoby Pruitt, Martell Ruffin, Courtney Celeste Spears, Christopher R. Wilson, and Terri Ayanna Wright.
Cover: Jacoby Pruitt and Christopher R. Wilson in ‘Circular;’ photo: Kyle Froman.