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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater: Hidden Rites, Burlesque, Love Stories

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
December 11, 2004
New York, NY

Featured Dance Company:

Alvin Ailey Dance Theater
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
405 West 55th Street
New York, NY 10019
(212) 405-9000
www.alvinailey.org

About the Author:

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater: Hidden Rites, Burlesque, Love Stories

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
www.alvinailey.org
Alvin Ailey - Founder
Judith Jamison - Artistic Director
Joan H. Weill, Chairman, Board of Trustees
Masazumi Chaya - Associate Artistic Director
Sharon Gersten Luckman — Executive Director
Calvin Hunt, General Manager/Director of Production
Amadea Edwards Andino, Manager of Administration
Dacquiri T'Shaun Smittick, Company Manager
Jodi Pam Krizer, Director, Marketing and Public Relations
Lynette Rizzo, Associate Director, Marketing
Beth Olsen - Associate Director, Public Relations
Cohn Davis Associates — Publicity

(See Other Ailey Reviews and Photos)
(See Ailey School Groundbreaking Ceremony)
(See Dwana Adiaha Smallwood Interview)

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
December 11, 2004

Hidden Rites (1973): Choreography by Alvin Ailey, Restaged by Masazumi Chaya, Music by Patrice Sciortino, Costumes by Bea Feitler, Scenic Design by Paul Sylbert, Lighting by Chenault Spence, Performed by Linda-Denise Fisher Harrell, Clifton Brown, Matthew Rushing, Asha Thomas, Venus Hall, Briana Reed, Hope Boykin, Olivia Bowman, Gwyenn Taylor Jones, Vernard J. Gilmore, Antonio Douthit, Zach Law Ingram, Willy Laury, Chris Jackson, Linda Celeste Sims, Glenn Allen Sims.

Masazumi Chaya has re-created this Ailey masterpiece with electric energy, head plumes, African rhythms gone contemporary, and overflowing exuberance. This is a must-see-again work, with the Graham motif so resplendent in repetitive somatic contractions and releases and in the sideward carrying off of dancers as ritualistic sacrifices. The rituals are inherently implied in the music, culture, images, costumes, and mood. Chenault Spence's lighting is extremely effective in creating glowing bodies that symbolize the fiery sounds and motion. Dancers represent "Incantation, Spirit Known and Unknown, Spirits Descending, Of Woman, Of Men, Of Love, Of Celebration and Death, and Of Spirits Ascending". For future seasons, it might be useful to give the audience a paragraph of African cultural references.

Burlesque (2002): (See December 5, 2004 Burlesque Review). Choreography by Donald Byrd, Restaged by Stephanie Guiland-Brown, Music by Louis Armstrong, Costumes by Emilio Sosa, Lighting by Jack Mehler, Scenic Design by Jack Mehler, Performed by Dwana Adiaha Smallwood, Linda Celeste Sims, Tina Monica Williams, Hope Boykin, Dion Wilson, Vernard J. Gilmore, Samuel Deshauteurs, Antonio Douthit.

On second viewing of this work, I found the interminable pauses (Vaudevillians pretending to beg the audience for additional applause) even more unnecessary. If Burlesque were tightened, with some of the extraneous scenes eliminated, and a few real Swing dances included, couples together or switching partners, this work could be as essential to Ailey Repertoire, as are so many of the more traditional works, with Louis Armstrong memories at the core.

Love Stories (2004): Choreography Judith Jamison with Robert Battle and Rennie Harris, Music by Stevie Wonder, original Composition Composed and Produced by Darrin Ross, Costumes by Susan Hilferty, Costume Assistant: Maiko Matsushima, Lighting and Visual Design by Al Crawford, Performed by Linda-Denise Fisher-Harrell, Dwana Adiaha Smallwood, Asha Thomas, Rosalyn Deshauteurs, Hope Boykin, Matthew Rushing, Guillermo Asca, Glenn Allen Sims, Clifton Brown, Abdur-Rahim Jackson, Kirven J. Boyd.

Steve Wonder never sounded better or more potent. This youthful premiere, by Judith Jamison, with Robert Battle and Rennie Harris, in shorts, leotards, and jumpsuits, hip-hop style, is powerfully percussive (in choreography and music), historical (with Ailey's voice and writings), spiritual (cathedral setting bookend the work), and optimistic (references to the Ailey Company origins and future).

The lighting and visual design by Al Crawford is central to this work, with flashing and flickering and fading lights, so symbolic, so surreal. In fact, the finale has the dancers facing stage rear, perhaps toward Mr. Ailey himself, with hanging tubes of light that could signify the heavens, as well as their new Ninth Avenue, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater complex. This work is imbued with devotion, dedication, and destiny.


Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Dwana Adiaha Smallwood, Clifton Brown, Hope Boykin in "Love Stories."
Photo courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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