After 5 years, the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre are back, under the directorship of Robert Battle, with four works; they astonish, engage, and are utterly incredible.
Based in New York, and founded in 1958 by choreographer and dancer, Alvin Ailey, the Ailey Dance Theatre “celebrates the uniqueness of the African-American cultural experience and the preservation and enrichment of the American modern dance heritage”. The company today continues Ailey’s mission in drawing on “blood memories”, through presenting iconic works of the past and creating new ones. Their reputation is hugely established globally, and this it is clear why when one experiences the work of the dancers and choreographers.
The night opens with Exodus, choreographed by acclaimed hip hop choreographer, Rennie Harris. The piece explores the idea of ‘exodus’, from ignorance to conformity, to the steps towards enlightenment. Including poetic narration, and contrasts in light and dark, Exodus was a striking and engaging opening piece. Second, comes Four Corners, with dancers as spiritual seekers and four angels – choreographed by Ronald K. Brown. Four Corners is beautiful, emotive and poignant, full of rise and fall, and complexity. Following from Four Corners is After the Rain Pas de Deux. Christopher Wheeldon’s choreography left me in genuine tears. Gentle but startling, the duet is intricate and truly emotive. The night ends with Revelations, described as a “cultural treasure”, and as one of the oldest pieces in the company’s repertoire, is a true crowd-favourite.
Together, the pieces astound, but also maintain their individuality, each telling their own story. Throughout, African beats push the performances forward, and provide a truly exciting and actually surprising motif. To see African-American culture so richly and proudly represented is sadly something which is more unusual than it should be.
The blend of hip hop, house music, gospel and traditional African music is addictive and this is added to by the sheer complexity of each piece. Repetitive, but never dull, the work is often almost hypnotic. The audience is left breathless by the whirlwind of emotions, skill and passion presented to them on stage, and the two hour performance leaves us wanting more. There is so much going on, I long to see the piece again and again, to catch every beautiful, intricate details in and of the movements.
Essentially, the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre are unmissable. The talent of the company, along with the incredible and complex choreography and the richness of their history, is truly awe-inspiring. I laughed, I cried and I was inspired. I urge you to experience the company for yourself if you get the chance. There isn’t an experience like it.