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Amber Henrie
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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater - The Road Of The Phoebe Snow

by Amber Henrie
January 4, 2008
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

Featured Dance Company:

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

During the 2007 season, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater re-staged three of the company's original productions, The Road of the Phoebe Snow, Flowers and Reflections in D.

While Flowers (a look at the struggle with addiction of a pop star) and Reflections in D (a solo Ailey choreographed for himself in 1962) were full of exhilarating technique, the stand out by far was The Road of the Phoebe Snow (based on young Americans who lived on the wrong side of the train tracks of the Erie-Lackawanna Railroad).

The music for The Road of the Phoebe Snow is by Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. Based on the choice of music and characteristics of the choreography, one would think this production was choreographed by Ailey. However, the choreographer is Talley Beatty (1923-1995), a good friend of Ailey's. Masazumi Chaya, associate artistic director, who had many opportunities to work closely with Ailey and Beatty said "like Alvin, Talley was very intelligent, we think of him as a jazz choreographer, but his background was a Dunham dancer. He used ballet technique, Graham technique, a real mixture. The Road of the Pheobe Snow is a real challenge for any dancer because you have to act first. Then you have to dance clearly and you have to show the emotion through the movement."

This particular piece did have a story and the Ailey dancers confidently conveyed emotions throughout each of the six movements. The ballet starts with seven sultry men, their moves low to the ground and very strong. Then seven women enter, their jazzy, feminine moves enhancing their sex appeal. It seems there is either a battle of the sexes going on or men and women flirting and showing off, something with which people are all too familiar. The ballet highlights two couples: a young, budding, innocent romance and a jaded couple who heat up the stage with their sexual pas de deux. The young couple was danced by Clifton Brown and Linda Celeste Sims, a perfect onstage pairing of elegance, supple bodies, control and joyous energy. Their pas de deux pushes the boundaries of connection and lifts as the dancers melt effortlessly from pose to pose portraying the sweetness and excitement one feels when in love. The ballet has a unique style which portrays the depth that can be expressed through jazz movements (great jazz hands, snaps and blues rhythms) and each section of the ballet has its own mood lighting (in the last movement the green lighting seems to express the envy toward the innocent and young lovers).

This selection was a great addition to the season and the Ailey dancers once again captured the depths of emotion during this performance as only they can. They proved this company can bring back a story that hasn't been in the active repertoire for 30 years and it will never be stale.
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