Clear

Please pick a keywork or category to proceed.

Review: Prepare to Scat and Boogie Woogie With Alvin Ailey’s ‘All Jazz’ Tribute

By Mercedes Vizcaino, Contributing Writer, December 20, 2017

Alvin Ailey’s American Dance Theatre is back with fervor this holiday season. Their five-week engagement which features a wide range from their repertory—both old and new—is sure to satisfy all dance and musical tastes. I recently attended their ‘All Jazz’ tribute, paying homage to jazz greats: Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, and Dizzy Gillespie.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in ‘Night Creature;’ photo: Gert Krautbauer.

The evening began with Night Creature, one of Alvin Ailey’s favorite classically choreographed signature works. Originally debuting in Ailey Celebrates Ellington, a 1974 television special, the stage version was adapted two years later at Lincoln Center. The performance is a celebration of the rituals of nighttime jaunts – interpreted by the dancers with jazz walks, boogie woogie, and ballet arabesques set to the nocturnal beats of Duke Ellington. The melodies of the 1960s jazz club numbers evoke the exuberance of nightlife and will leave you transfixed in this era.

Jacquelin Harris and Megan Jakel in ‘Ella;’ photo: Teresa Wood.

Ella combines high-energy dance with comedic nuances. Debuting in 2016 at the theatre in anticipation of Ella Fitzgerald’s centennial in April 2017, this electric performance uses a live concert recording of Fitzgerald performing the song “Airmail Special” and features the singer’s virtuosic scatting with lightning-fast articulated movement from the dancers. The pace is so frenetic, you forget to breathe at times in anticipation of what’s next; a welcomed shock to the system.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in ‘r-Evolution, Dream;’ photo: Paul Kolnik.

Veteran company dance member Hope Boykin, choreographed, developed lyrics, designed the costumes and performs in r-Evolution, Dream, the third piece of the night. Following a visit to the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta during Ailey’s annual U.S. tour, the multitalented Boykin was inspired by the sermons and speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Through interpretive dance; the performance delves into the struggles of black Americans and the current global political turmoil as narrated by Tony Award-winner Lesile Odom, Jr. of Hamilton fame. The juxtaposition of spoken word and dramatic dances moves strikes an uplifting balance between hope and despair.

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

Winter in Lisbon, the final piece of the night, celebrates the life of Dizzy Gillespie, spanning four decades of the jazz legend’s brilliant music. The ballet is a mix of sensual, playful dancing set against a backdrop of vibrant jewel-toned colored costumes. The performers agility to seamlessly switch between classical ballet moves, sultry slow rhythms, and upbeat Latin-inspired dance steps is a testament to their talent. It’s pure magic to witness.

Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre’s holiday season outdoes itself each year with captivating performances. Whether you’re new to jazz or have been a long-time fan, this programming does an excellent job of portraying and paying tribute to the beloved jazz greats, each with their distinct sound.

_________________________

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

Night Creature; Choreography by Alvin Ailey; music by Duke Ellington; costumes designed by Jane Greenwood / recreated by Barbara Forbes; lighting design by Chenault Spence. Dancers: Movement I: Blind Bug; Hope Boykin, Vernard J. Gilmore and The Company; Movement II: Stalking Monster: Hope Boykin, Glenn Allen Sims, Ashley Mayeux, Sarah Daley-Perdomo, Fana Tesfagiorgis, Belén Pereyra-Alem, Danica Paulos, Ghrai DeVore, Sean Aaron Carmon, Jeroboam Bozeman, Samuel Lee Roberts, Michael Francis McBride, Chalvar Monteiro, Solomon Dumas; Movement III: Dazzling Creature: Hope Boykin, Vernard J. Gilmore and The Company.

Ella; Choreography by Robert Battle; restaging by Marlena Wolfe; music by Ella Fitzgerald; costumes designed by Jon Taylor; lighting design by Burke Wilmore. Dancers: Jaquelin Harris, Megan Jakel, Daniel Harder, Renaldo Maurice, Collin Heyward.

r-Evolution, Dream; developed and choreographed by Hope Boykin; original music by Ali Jackson; narration by Leslie Odom Jr.  Dancers: Matthew Rushing, Jeroboam Bozeman, Rachael McLaren, Renaldo Maurice, Vernard J. Gilmore, Samantha Figgins, Daniel Harder, Jacquelin Harris, Michael Francis McBride, Jamar Roberts, Sarah Daley-Perdomo, Megan Jakel, Glenn Allen Sims, Akua Noni Parker, Sean Aaron Carmon.

The Winter in Lisbon; Choreography by Billy Wilson; restaged by Masazumi Chaya; music by Charles Fishman and Dizzy Gillespie; re-orchestrated by Ted Nash; arranged by Slide Hampton and Gil Fuller; costumes designed by Barbara Forbes; lighting design by Chenault Spence. Dancers: Opening Theme,” The Company; “San Sebastian,” Samuel Lee Roberts, Yannick Lebrun, Sean Aaron Carmon, Samantha Figgins, Belén Pereya-Alem; “Lisbon,” Constance Stamatiou, Yannick Lebrun; “Manteca,” The Company.

 

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


Comments

Popular tags

Art Break at carnegie hall at The Joyce At The Met Fifth Avenue broadway carnegie hall dan ouellette David H. Koch Theater jazz notes new york city ballet New York City Center new york philharmonic nyc NY Philharmonic off-broadway Paul Taylor American Modern Dance piano Senior Editor ZEALnyc theater zealnyc