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Review: Alvin Ailey Is ‘Electrifying’ In Its Holiday Residency at City Center

Alvin Ailey

By Bethany Hopta, Contributing Writer, December 11, 2017

This past Saturday evening’s performance of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater was electrifying and diverse.

Alvin Ailey

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in ‘Memoria;’ photo: Steve Wilson.

The evening began with Memoria, originally choreographed in 1979 by Alvin Ailey as a tribute to his colleague and friend, Joyce Trisler, and restaged by Masaumi Chaya. Marking the first time Mr. Ailey combined Alvin Ailey Dance Theater dancers with students from the Ailey School, the piece is comprised of two distinct sections: “In Memory” and “In Celebration,” both accompanied by the melodious sounds of Keith Jarrett’s instrumental score. The beginning of the piece featured a blue background and glowing, soft light (lighting by Chenault Spence). The dancers were in white, flowing costumes; dresses for the women and shirts and pants for the men. The students joined them on stage in skin tone costumes, and the large group of dancers filled the stage with patterns of movement intersecting and undulating. “In Celebration” was characterized by increased energy, joyful movement, and brightly colored costumes designed by A. Christina Gainnini. The lighting became brighter and had a yellow tint, helping create the change of mood. The audience traveled on a beautiful journey in this piece, from ethereal to energizing.

Alvin Ailey

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in ‘Walking Mad;’ photo: Paul Kolnik.

Walking Mad was originally choregraphed in 2001 by Johan Inger, premiering with Ailey in 2016. A piece for nine dancers, it is a modern interpretation of Ravel’s Bolero, with additional music by Arvo Pärt; the score is so familiar that audience members were heard humming portions during intermission. The choreography is fresh and inventive, and incorporates a wall that is opened (with doors inset in the structure), moved on an angle (by dancers pushing it), and transformed into a floor.  It is climbed over, run around, and generally, provides an interesting visual element. There is a poignancy to its presence as it frames each vignette of dance, often used as a barrier between dancers. The costumes, designed by the choreographer, accentuate the modern feel of the dance: shirts and dark pants for the men and brightly colored dresses for the women.

Alvin Ailey

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in ‘Winter in Lisbon;’ photo: Teresa Wood.

The evening ended with The Winter in Lisbon, choreographed in 1992 by Billy Wilson, and restaged in 2016 by Masazumi Chaya in honor of the 2017 centennial celebration of Dizzy Gillespie’s birth. The piece captures the particular flavor of Mr. Gillespie’s music (music by Charles Fishman is also used) with the choreography, but also aided by Barbara Forbes’s colorful costumes and the energy and attitude from the dancers. The piece is divided into four parts: the first and last feature the company, the second is comprised of six dancers, and the third is a pas de deux, jazz style. The piece is fun, a celebration, but also precise and distinct. The lighting by Chenault Spence is accented by the use of the fog machine to emphasize more sensuality and mood to the piece.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by the holidays (or even if you’re not), this is the perfect time to see an Ailey performance—the energy is contagious.

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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at New York City Center, 131 West 55th Street, through December 31, 2017.  Artistic Director, Robert Battle.

Memoria; Choreography by Alvin Ailey, restaged by Masazumi Chaya; music by Keith Jarrett; costume design by A. Christina Giannini; lighting design by Chenault Spence.  Dancers: Jacqueline Green, Jamar Roberts, Yannick Lebrun, Akua Noni Parker, Glenn Allen Sims, Rachael McLaren, Vernard J. Gilmore, Belen Pereyra-Alem, Michael Francis McBride, Chalvar Monteiro, Collin Heyward, Solomon Dumas, Danica Paulos, Samantha Figgins, Ashley Mayeux.  Students of the Ailey School, staged by Ronni Favors: Rawinan Asawakanjanakit, Mikaela Brandon, Leonardo Brito de Mendonca, Joradan Chin, Caroline Dartey, Aurelie Garcia, Sy Gaskin, Charles Grant, Jamsine Hurst, Sydney Keir, Amarachi Korie, Elijah Lancaster, Valeriane Louisy Louis-Joseph, Michael Lubbers, Shaina McGregor, Amauris Ortega, Hannah Richardson, Napat Rodboon, Lauren Russo, Eleanor Sato, Mikayla Scaife, Ashley Simpson, Sarah Takash, Brena Thomas, Isabel Wallace-Green, and Brion Watson.

Walking Mad; Choreography by Johan Inger; music by Maurice Ravel and Arvo Pärt; costume and scenic design by Johan Inger; lighting design by Erik Berglund. Dancers: Danica Paulos, Jacquelin Harris, Rachael McLaren, Michael Francis McBride, Jamar Roberts, Glenn Allen Sims, Yannick Lebrun, Chalvar Monteiro, and Michael Jackson, Jr.

The Winter in Lisbon; Choreography by Billy Wilson, restaged by Masazumi Chaya; music by Charles Fishman and Dizzy Gillespie; costume design by Barbara Forbes; lighting design by Chenault Spence. Dancers: The Company featuring Daniel Harder, Glenn Allen Sims, Vernard J. Gilmore, Rachael McLaren, Belen Pereyra-Alem, and Linda Celeste Sims.

For a list of New York City dance performances, click here.

For the latest news in New York City dance, click here.

Cover: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in ‘The Winter in Lisbon;’ photo: Christopher Duggan.


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