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Alvin Ailey - a review

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
December 11, 2002
New York City Center
130 West 56th Street
(Audience Entrance is on West 55th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues)
(Entrance for Studios and Offices is on West 56th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues)
New York, NY 10019
212.247.0430

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

www.alvinailey.org


Alvin Ailey - Founder
Judith Jamison - Artistic Director
Judith H. Weill, Chairman of the Board of Trustees
Masazumi Chaya - Associate Artistic Director
Sharon Gersten Luckman —Executive Director
James King, General Manager
Amadea Edwards, Administrative Manager
Bernice Collins, Company Manager
Jodi Pam Krizer, Director, Marketing and Public Relations
Lynette Rizzo, Marketing Manager
Beth Olsen - Public Relations Manager
Cohn Davis Associates—Publicity


Review by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower

December 11, 2002

Memoria (1979) In Memory and in Celebration: Choreography by Alvin Ailey, Music by Keith Jarrett (Runes Solara March), Costumes by A. Christina Giannini, Lighting by Chenault Spence, Performed by the Company. In what seemed to be an expansive choreographic feat, the entire Company performed, moving as one, in geometrical formations, with a melee of ever-moving triangles of dancers, some with outstretched winged arms, some heads bent down. The City Center audience was at once treated to a burst of rainbow colored costumes, with lighting from within the formations (somewhat like a Rembrandt painting). A striking figure was cast by Linda-Denise Fisher-Harrell, who had a lead role in Apex (See Review), as Ms. Fisher-Harrell was held high, in an exquisite red dress, with brightly lit white-costumed dancers beneath. There was an exuberant, yet nurturing, mood inherent in this piece, as heads closed in, one on top of the other, to be then lifted in ever-flowing motion, as bodies swirled with centrifugal force from within. This ethereal and perfectly balanced piece highlighted the tremendous talents of individual dancers, while showcasing the Company as one that is fine-tuned, well-rehearsed, and reminiscent of the organic works of earlier Modern Dance Companies and choreographers, namely Martha Graham and Agnes de Mille. Kudos to Chenault Spence.

Treading (1979): Choreography by Elisa Monte, Music by Steve Reich (Eighteen Musicians), Costumes by Marisol, Lighting by Beverly Emmons, Performed by Linda-Denise Fisher-Harrell, Clifton Brown. After leading dancing lead roles in Apex and Memoria, Linda-Denise Fisher-Harrell, elegantly and emotionally partnered by Clifton Brown, again received a standing ovation for her role in Treading, which is a highly sexual, athletic, and visually inventive piece, with the two dancers writhing and winding around and under each other in slow motion, with muscular limbs suspended in time, as a pendulum of legs, as two humans metamorphosing into one crustacean figure, with superbly kaleidoscopic lighting effects by Beverly Emmons. Ms. Fisher-Harrell and Mr. Brown displayed virtuosity and flexibility as they organically bonded, from species to species, against the engaging new-age music of Steve Reich.

Cry (1971) For all black women everywhere, especially our mothers: Choreography by Alvin Ailey, Music by Alice Coltrane, Laura Nyro, and Chuck Griffin, Costume by A. Christina Giannini, Lighting by Chenault Spence, Performed by Dwana Adiaha Smallwood. Ms. Smallwood, who exuberantly danced a leading role in Caravan (See Review), carried the torch of Judith Jamison (now Artistic Director) well, for whom this role was specifically choreographed by Alvin Ailey in 1971. Ms. Smallwood exemplified the struggle from sorrow and pain to joy and freedom, with her amazingly flexible posturing techniques, including the Martha Graham contraction-releases from the interior of the torso (See Interview, Erica Dankmeyer). Ms. Smallwood utilized her brilliantly designed, long, ruffled white dress, with an expansive length of white material, which became a turban, a slave-like restraint, or finally a swing. Disturbing music and lyrics, referring to drugs and death on a train, were followed by joyful release and the sensation of survival. Ms. Smallwood was a commanding, charismatic presence onstage, alone, yet powerfully assuming her generous space. Kudos to Dwana Adiaha Smallwood and to Judith Jamison, who first danced this role. I would love to see an original film of Ms. Jamison in Cry.

Grace (1999): Choreography by Ronald K. Brown, Assistants to Mr. Brown, Angelica Patterson, Telly Fowler, Music: Various Artists (Duke Ellington, Roy Davis, Jr., Paul Johnson, Fela Kuti), Costumes by Omatayo Wunmi Olaiya, Lighting by William H. Grant III, Performed by the Company. The Company in brilliantly colorful red and white costumes, mixed with phalanxes of gray, moving in combined patterns of rapid and extra-slow motion, in opposite direction, as an optical illusion, was in superbly rare form. The audience could barely contain itself, as it became electrically charged by the pulsating Jazz refrains of Duke Ellington, et al, and added its own sound to this music, so steeped in culture and so rich in cadence. At times, the Company, led by dancers, such as Renee Robinson, Hope Boykin, and Asha Thomas, appeared profoundly robotic, blown onto the stage from the side curtains by an invisible hurricane, as their energy level was so pronounced, their dancing so swift and silent, yet the lightning turns created an image of phrenetic precision and sensational synchronization. Movement was timed to either individual lyrics, short phrases, or to longer, pulsating passages. The oppositional characteristics of timing, direction, motion, and partnering, presented an additional illusion of dancing faster or more slowly than reality would allow. Facial expressions (See Abrams Ailey Review) of intense emotionality were intrinsically woven into the extremely complicated choreography of this piece. Kudos again to Ms. Jamison and her colleagues at Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater for mounting and supervising this remarkable performance of Grace.


Renee Robinson
Ballet: Cry
Choreographer: Alvin Ailey
Photo by Josef Astor



Dwana Adiaha Smallwood
Ballet: Cry
Choreographer: Alvin Ailey
Photo by Andrew Eccles



Company Members
Ballet: Grace
Choreographer: Ronald K. Brown
Photo by Paul Kolnik



Company Members
Ballet: Grace
Choreographer: Ronald K. Brown
Photo by Paul Kolnik



Company Members
Ballet: Memoria
Choreographer: Alvin Ailey
Photo by Paul Kolnik



Linda-Denise Fisher-Harrell and Clifton Brown
Ballet: Treading
Choreographer: Elisa Monte
Photo by Andrew Eccles



Bahiyah Sayyed-Gaines and Glenn A. Sims
Ballet: Treading
Choreographer: Ulysses Dove
Photo by Andrew Eccles

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