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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater: Wonders Never Cease

by Joanna G. Harris
April 4, 2014
Zellerbach Hall
Bancroft Way at Telegraph
(2430 Bancroft Ave.)
Berkeley, CA 94704
510.642.9988

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

Joanna G. Harris
Author, Beyond Isadora: Bay Area Dancing, 1916-1965. Regent Press, Berkeley, CA, 2009. Contributor to reviews on culturevulture.net
What more can be said about Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater? Now under the direction of Robert Battle, with new choreography by Aszure Barton and Ronald K. Brown and still dancing Ailey's "Revelations," the company looks better than ever. The men are strong, the women focused and self-possessed. This dance company, founded in 1958, is more beautiful than ever.

For its Berkeley residency, Program A featured "Lift," a new work by Canadian artist Aszure Barton. To music by Curtis Macdonald, the work brought forth an outstanding performance by the company's men who began the piece as if enacting extraordinary worker movements. They were joined by women in feathered skirts, shaking clenched fists. The piece alternates with sections for both groups, the movement varied from high-energy jumps and runs to moments of stillness. Although every dancer is brilliant, in "Lift" the men emerge as the stars of the company.

Ronald K. Brown's own company "Evidence" is known for works combining "African-based" movement and spiritual commitment. "Four Corners" featured eleven dancers including Jacqueline Green and Belen Pereyra who took solo roles. The work mixed music by Carl Hancock Rux and various other artists to produce a very sophisticated score. Combining group sections with several duets, the work, notes Brown, "echoes the four corners of the world where angels will appear on Judgment day". Though no such allusion is directly evident, the work is elegant and rhythmically exciting.

This reviewer first saw Ailey's "Revelations" in 1963 when Alvin Ailey set it on the young company. Now, fifty years later, it still holds all the charm and excitement it evoked then. The ten spirituals recall Ailey's memories of rural Texas; each echoes celebration and religious devotion. Matthew Rushing danced the deep commitment of "I want to be ready," while Belen Pereyra with Yannick Lebrun gave us the beautiful lament to "Fix Me, Jesus." It is impossible to resist joining the audience in the finale, "Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham," which the company repeated to everyone's delight.

After so many years, the spirit, energy and innovation of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is still an inspiration.
The Company in Alvin Ailey's 'Revelations.' Photo by James R. Brantley

The Company in Alvin Ailey's 'Revelations.' Photo by James R. Brantley

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