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Marian Horosko
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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Turns Fifty - Season Overview

by Marian Horosko
December 21, 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

With Antony Tudor and José Limón each celebrating their 100th anniversary this year, Alvin Ailey's American Dance Theater, only 50, is a sure contender for a future centennial celebration. AAADT has always been promoted vigorously, sponsored prodigiously and has toured extensively unlike any other modern dance company in this century. Its activities began last March, with a Congressional Resolution stating the company "a vital American cultural ambassador to the world." After that, it was one event after another including an archive exhibit at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.

Preceding the traditional Ailey December City Center season, the
group toured the Middle East ending in Italy. A 30 major city tour is planned for the winter/spring 2009 season ending in a gala at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts with a variety of events to come.

"Ailey Ascending: A Portrait in Motion," by photographer Andrew Eccles was issued as part of the celebration. Ailey would have loved it all.

A favorite of the season was "Suite Otis" (1971) by George Faison running away with nostalgia for the world that resonated with the exuberance of jazz, and the period of acting out lyrics of sentiment, romance and humor with characteristic gestures of the period including anger and painful domestic battles. Faison was a popular television and Broadway choreographer. His construction builds from individual dance conversations to joyous club and bar celebrations. Faison lets it all hang out to become an Ailey classic.

Italian choreographer, Mauro Bigonzetti made a sensation last year with his "In Vento," for New York City Ballet. The emotional intensity of his work is palpable. Bigonzetti was a member of the Rome Opera Ballet and in 1982, joined Aterballetto, where he performed and created his first ballet in 1990, and where he is now its Artistic Director since 1997.
This season, the world premiere of his "Festa Barocca" for Ailey was puzzling, moving, fun and possibly a "send up" of black gestures. Bigonzetti's talent for creating emotionally charged pas de deuxs is his forte. In "Festa Barocca" set to Handel's yodeling Baroque music, set at industrial strength sound level, was only half the problem. His group work, set in eleven sections was a busy series of entrances and flying exits. Ailey men, steal the show with their energetic, movements and long Marc Happel designed skirts in ravishing colors.

The dancers who best exemplified his musicality, inventiveness and freshness: Gwynenn Taylor Jones (Pittsburg) in duet with Clifton Brown (Arizona) and "star" Linda Celeste Sims (Ballet Hispanico) with Glenn Allen Sims (New Jersey).

Not enough credit is given Japanese-born, Masazumi Chaya, Associate Artistic Director, a performer with the company for 15 years and its restager since 1988. He has maintained the spirit and style of all the works.

The Ailey company continues at City Center through December, embarks upon it national tour and runs a number of summer and special programs for students.
Linda Celeste Sims

Linda Celeste Sims

Photo © & courtesy of Edward Patina

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