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Alvin Ailey - a review

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
December 8, 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
Joan 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

Notes and Review by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
December 8, 2002

Alvin Ailey was born in Texas in 1931 and studied with Lester Horton, who created the first racially integrated dance company. In 1953, he became Director of the Lester Horton Dance Theater and began to choreograph new works. Alvin Ailey studied with famed artists, such as Martha Graham and Doris Humphrey. The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater began in March, 1958, with a small performance by Alvin Ailey and a group of young, black modern dancers at the 92nd Street Y, at Lexington Avenue and 92nd Street, followed by the development of a Company that meshes the rich culture of African-American and Multicultural Heritage with Modern Dance techniques and current trends in Dance, Politics, and all Performing and Visual Arts. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has performed around the world for an audience, estimated to be 19 million, and it has released two compact discs of music from the Ailey repertoire. It has also over 180 works in its repertoire by more than 65 choreographers.

Judith Jamison (See Alvin Ailey School Groundbreaking Ceremony) continues the legacy of celebrating the black cultural experience and the heritage of Modern Dance. Ms. Jamison was discovered by Agnes de Mille at a master class in 1964 and made her NY Debut in one of Ms. De Mille's ballets at American Ballet Theatre, The Four Marys. Ms. Jamison joined the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1965 and quickly became a star in the company for the next fifteen years. Alvin Ailey created many solo roles for Ms. Jamison, such as that in Cry. Ms. Jamison has performed and choreographed for numerous dance companies around the world, such as Maurice Bejart's Ballet of the Twentieth Century. Prior to his early death, Alvin Ailey requested that Ms. Jamison succeed him as Artistic Director, which she did in 1989. Ms. Jamison has carried the torch well and continues to showcase new choreographers from within the Company. She has created many programs for arts in the schools and, as a result of her superb leadership of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, she has won numerous awards and honors, such as presidential appointee to the National Endowment for the Arts.


Caravan (1976): Choreography by Louis Falco, Restaged by Alan Sener with Masazumi Chaya, Ronni Favors, and Donna Wood Sanders, Music by Michael Kamen (based on Duke Ellington Themes), Décor Design and Original Costumes by William Katz, Original Lighting by Richard Nelson, Lighting by Chenault Spence, Performed by the Company. Louis Falco is a well-known dancer and choreographer, who was a Principal with the Jose Limón Dance Company, and formed his own company, the Louis Falco Dance Company. Mr. Falco developed projects for stage, film, and television.

With centipede formations of male and female dancers, long, unrolled carpets, Duke Ellington jazz and swing melodies, variously colored silk screens descending from the rafters, Caravan was a thoroughly enjoyable and uplifting piece. The second section included dancers with platform shoes, on wooden blocks, sometimes just exposing feet behind a dropped curtain, with rainbow shades of pants. The rich cultural heritage of Ellington's music was expertly and energetically choreographed by Mr. Falco and then restaged for this season. The essence of Caravan is a joyful, buoyant, upbeat mood, with extremely athletic partnering and shifting weight and balancing techniques. I would very much enjoy seeing this piece again, as there was much to absorb in this electric explosion of amazing choreography.

APEX (2002): Choreography by Francesca Harper, Assistant to Ms. Harper, Helen Pickett, Music by Rolf Ellmer, Vocal by Francesca Harper, Recording Supervisor, Ariel Zablozki, Costumes by Epperson, Lighting by Al Crawford, Performed by the Company. Ms. Harper is a choreographer, singer, and dancer, who has performed with the Frankfurt Ballet and the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Apex is dedicated to those who stand up for human dignity and freedom.

Again, long rolls of material were utilized with a totally shocking effect of encapsulating the moment of fear and claustrophobia inherent in the interwoven themes, so expertly invented by Francesca Harper. An effort to change free speech laws in the Congo is a political statement that expresses itself through shadows of words found on the unrolled material, through sound bites of humming and whispering, through terrifying costumes, with long, black, pointed boots, patent leather outfits, ropes, and an expectation of deportation and death. Ms. Harper is highly intuitive in creating dramatic choreography that at once entertains and grips the audience, while unfolding through the bleak, sharp, and haunting images on stage.

Revelations (1960): Choreography by Alvin Ailey, Music: Traditional, Décor and Costumes by Ves Harper, Costumes for Rocka My Soul redesigned by Barbara Forbes, Lighting by Nicola Cernovitch, Performed by the Company. As a long time devoted fan of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, I have seen Revelations numerous times and never tire for one moment of the rousing gospels, the brightly displayed, flowing costumes in yellow and white, the umbrellas in the wind, with smattering rainbow shadows, the ladies shaking large yellow fans, the spare, wooden seats used as dance props, the Wade in the Water sequence (Music of Ella Jenkins) with undulating rolls of brightly lit material extended across the stage, and the Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham sequence, which enables one to awake every morning, humming these and other familiar gospel refrains. As in a rousing Gospel event, the dancing and musical arrangements become more and more pulsating, charged, and energetic. From the first I Been 'Buked to the final rushing of the Company front stage, to relate to the audience's bravura acclaim, one feels emotionally cleansed and part of a rarified, cultural celebration.

Kudos to Judith Jamison, Artistic Director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, for organizing and mounting, once again, a perfectly balanced and eclectic, Holiday Season, with a Company that has never been in better shape. AADT will be in town, at City Center, through January 5, 2003. Do not miss this outstanding opportunity to experience a quintessential and well-seasoned Modern Dance Company, a true New York treasure.


Renee Robinson
Ballet: Apex
Choreographer: Francesca Harper
Photo by Paul Kolnik



Company Members
Ballet: Caravan
Choreographer: Louis Falco
Photo by Paul Kolnik



Linda-Denise Fisher-Harrell
Ballet: Caravan
Choreographer: Louis Falco
Photo by Paul Kolnik



Briana Reed and Amos J. Machanic, Jr.
Ballet: Revelations
Choreographer: Alvin Ailey
Photo by Paul Kolnik



Renee Robinson
Ballet: Revelations
Choreographer: Alvin Ailey
Photo by Paul Kolnik



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



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

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