9/15/19 O&A NYC SUNDAY AFTERNOON JAZZ CONCERT: Bad Blood- Ulysses Dove

ulysses-doveBad Blood received its World Premiere, in 1984 on Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal. Featuring music by Laurie Anderson (Gravity’s Angel and Walking and Falling) and Peter Gabriel (Excellent Birds) the work in an erotic tour de force battle of the sexes. The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre premiered the work in 1986. It is one of seven Dove ballets in the Ailey Company repertoire.  Continue reading

3/17/19 O&A NYC DANCE/REVIEW: Ailey II

By Walter Rutledge

Ailey II opened  their 2019 New York City season on Wednesday, March 13th at NYU Skirball, the five-day seven performance season runs through Sunday, March 17. More than a “farm team” for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater this 12-member ensemble has built a reputation as a solid repertory company; featuring stellar young artists performing dynamic, and sometimes edgy choreography. This year is no exception Program A (entitled All New) presented three world premieres by Ailey alumnus Uri Sands, Bradley Shelver, and Troy Powell; and one company premiere by Robert Battle. The evening of abstract narrative works could best be described as visually atmospheric.

Tracks by Uri Sands began with the full ensemble slowly proceeding downstage right (with their back facing the audience) in a single shaft of diagonal light. Ample smoke added the required visual drama to Burke Brown’s light design, which provided a stark canvas for the minimalist prelude.  Set to the prison work song Let Your Hammer Ring the section’s steady progression was occasionally interrupted by a dancer simply standing upright.

In sharp contrast, this was followed by four sections set to the music of the R&B group the O’Jays. The work lost the minimalist approach establishing a lush contemporary look. The centerpiece of the work was the duet set to Desire Me. Antuan Byers and Marcus Williams navigated the same-sex duet with quiet passion; the sculptural elements of the work evoked a sensory reaction void of saccharine melodrama. The work ended with Stairway To Heaven throughout the section Kyle H. Martin is enveloped into a moving cloud like mass; that gently jettisoned back into the space, only to be enveloped again. The repetitive phrase provided the work with a holistic conclusion.

Choreographers are teachers of movement. They have the ability to imbue dancers with qualities beyond technique. Ebb And Flow by Ailey II Artistic Director Troy Powell is just such a work.

The duet, set to the popular Adagio for Strings, Op 11 by Samuel Barber, gave Powell a monumental task- to breathe new life into this music chestnut. Corrin Rachelle Mitchell was bathed in an amber and blue glow held aloft by Leonardo Brito. Sequestered in a rectangular, that ran through the center of the stage, the duet displayed a musicality that did not rely exclusively on the phrasing; instead it became its own moving visual voice. Powell was able to share the power and majesty of the music through his choreography; while giving the dancers an opportunity to grow.

Flock, a septet by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Artistic Director Robert Battle, proved to be the most diverse work on the program. Battle’s vocabulary defied convention by avoiding classroom/technique- based movement. This allowed  the choreography to establish its own distant voice; unencumbered by conventional shapes and steps such as arabesque, attitude turns and posse’ pirouettes.

The abstract dance narrative takes us on a tale of trust betrayed a kind of abstract Emperor Jones or A Face In The Crowd. Kyle H. Martin leads his flock until his own “feet of clay” are exposed. Originally choreographed in 2004 the present social and political climate gives this allegory renewed relevance.

The evening closed with the full ensemble work Where There Are Tongues by South African born dancer, teacher, author and choreographer Bradley Shelver. The amalgam  of movement styles and cultural references give the work a textually rich element. References included indigenous movement from Africa and Europe; which created a universal and inclusive quality. The rhythmically complex music by french a cappella group Lo Còr De La Plana assisted in the universality by providing a pulsing audio score that transcended any one culture.

Ailey II continues to offer artists (dancers, choreographers light and costume designers) opportunities to develop their craft. It also continues to honor founder Alvin Ailey and his love for dance as a gift to all people. The 2019 New York City Ailey II season exemplifies this vision; one of the reasons this company has become a formidable force in its own right.

3/3/19 O&A NYC DANCE/REVIEW: Why Talley Beatty’s Stack Up Still Stacks Up

By Walter Rutledge

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s revival of Talley Beatty’s Stack Up became the undisputed hit of the 2018 New York City season. This posed the question, “What makes a dance a masterwork?” In other words, why does Stack Up still stack up?

Part of the answer is the most unforgiving four-letter word in the English vocabulary TIME. Today in our fast-paced world with its changing social attitudes, need for immediate gratification and public acceptance, has virtually eliminated the critical maturation period. This is the time it takes the public (and critics) to develop the aesthetic acumen to understand and acknowledge that they are in the midst of something new, different and profoundly groundbreaking.

Created for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1983 Stack Up become an immediate hit. Jennifer Dunning reviewed Stack Up during the 1983 Ailey 25 season, “Mr. Beatty’s tale of lost innocence is as fresh as if it were being told for the first time.” Now 36 years later Dunning’s comments still ring true; Stack Up had retained a freshness and renewed relevance.

Another element of the ballets’ sustained appeal is Beatty’s innate skill as a movement architect and storyteller. A master craftsmen, Stack Up is visually stunning from every seat in the New York City Center’s proscenium house. Even in the fourth tier the patterns move with the precision of a swiss watch.

The textured construction of the choreography included multiple layered movement sequences happening simultaneously. This created primary action, and both secondary and background movement similar to the configurations used in story ballet classics. Despite Beatty’s repute the success of Stack Up sparked an unexpected comeback.

At age 64 Beatty had achieved choreographic acclaim over two decades earlier with his masterwork The Road Of The Phoebe Snow (1959). Despite his 1977 Tony nomination for Arms Too Short To Box With God, and several ballets in the Ailey repertoire, by the early 80’s Beatty had become a dance dinosaur. Artists such as Elisa Monte (Treading 1981, Pigs and Fishes 1982), Bill T. Jones (Fever Swamp 1983) and Ulysses Dove (Night Shade 1982) had captured the public’s curiosity, forging new ground; while relegating Beatty to the past. The success of  Stack Up revived Beatty’s career with a Frank Lloyd Wright vengeance.

Beatty returned to the loss of innocence theme that propelled The Road Of The Phoebe Snow. Set with a soulful Westside Story flavor “Phoebe” centered around a young men and women who encounter gang violence. In Stack Up the male and female leads are confronted by a drug dealer while navigating the New York City underground club scene. Beatty did not relive his “Phoebe” glory, to the contrary, he did his research to create a new work for a new generation and a new audience.

Better Days, a predominantly Black and Latino gay night spot, renowned for great music, dancing, drinking and plenty of shade. It’s tucked away on 49th Street between 8th and 9th Avenue, an area notorious for strip clubs, prostitution and rat-infested tenements. The diminutive, but fearless sexagenarian (Beatty) became a fixture/voyeur at the club.

Beatty soaked up the music, dancing and atmosphere of the club and neighborhood. Social dances such as the Hustle and emerging hip-hop styles were deconstructed and eventually incorporated into his choreography. In retrospect this was the beginning of the end of an era. The club scene with its rampant drugs use, transient sex and outlandish behavior would eventually be eclipsed by the crack cocaine explosion and the AIDS pandemic.

As the curtain rose on the current production, the Romare Bearden backdrop based on his watercolor Under The Bridge brought us into Beatty’s gritty urban environment. The Bearden backdrop (part a series featured in the 1980 John Cassavetes film Gloria) seemed a little faded and in need of sprucing up. Fortunately, this was the only element of this production in need of a facelift.

From the moment the curtain rises we are immediately pulled into the hustle and flow of the vibrant NYC night culture. Dancers spilled onto the stage introducing themselves; and immediately establishing their characters through both movement and attitude. All with the kind of aplomb best described as “urban cool”.

Yannick Labrun and Constance Stamatiou, the young couple emerged from the chaotic, but deliberate movement mayhem. Originally performed by a hunky Keith McDaniel the tall, lean Labrun made the role his own. With a “wide-eyed” sense of innocence and exuberance abounding, this danseur noble took us on a journey (no… his journey) of seduction and betrayal.

Stamatiou’s impassioned interpretation is much less an ingenue, and more protector and futile voice of reason. Michael Jackson Jr. brought a special energy to the role of the drug dealer. His energetic, yet multi-faceted portrayal revived images of the role’s originator Gary DeLoatch. Ranging from an almost manic “life of the party” ringmaster to an alone and poignant addict, Jackson Jr.’s antagonist evoked both disdain and pathos.

The second section opened with Rockin It, old school hip-hop from the Fearless Four. The dancer’s heads popped through the black backdrop playfully bopped side to side. Just one of the many ingenious theatrical devices that kept the audience “on their toes”.

With an amalgam of movement styles including; Dunham, Graham, Ballet, Jazz and current street/vernacular dances, the Louisiana native created an exciting dance “Gumbo”. The abstract narrative ebbed and flowed like a theatrical rollercoaster of falling and rise action. This was balanced by Beatty’s strong dance theatre prowess; which helped him develop complete and believable characters, and clear and concise scenarios. Standout Jermaine Terry’s subtle and focused portrayal of a little too high street character was spot on! His endearing sense of humor complimented without upstaging.

The final scene takes us to the club complete with a disco mainstay mirror ball. Beatty masterfully builds the work to a frenzied crescendo, ending with an arresting final tableau- blackout! Encompassing the four elements of good storytelling; intrigue, seduction, betrayal and mysticism, Stack Up remains a powerful social commentary, made more prevalent due to the present Opioid crisis.

 2/27/19 O&A NYC INSPIRATIONAL TUESDAY- EXTRA: Desmond Richardson- Imprint/Maya at TEDx Talks

Desmond Richardson co-founder/co-artistic director of Complexions Contemporary Ballet and former principal dancer with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater also holds the distinction of being the first African-American principal dancer of American Ballet Theater. Here he performs Imprint/Maya by Dwight Roden and shares his biggest inspiration and finding joy through movement. Continue reading

2/1/19 O&A NYC SHALL WE DANCE FRIDAY- BLACK HISTORY MONTH: Bad Blood by Ulysses Dove

Shall We Danceulysses-dove

Bad Blood received its World Premiere, in 1984 on Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal. Featuring music by Laurie Anderson (Gravity’s Angel and Walking and Falling) and Peter Gabriel (Excellent Birds) the work in an erotic tour de force battle of the sexes. The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre premiered the work in 1986. It is one of seven Dove ballets in the Ailey Company repertoire.  Continue reading

12/18/18 O&A NYC DANCE: Linda Celeste Sims- Pure Light( originally posted 12/3/15)

By Walter Rutledge

Ailey_Headshots_LCSims

Outstanding performers have always been the hallmark of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Dancers that consistently test the technical and artistic boundaries of modern dance remain a fundamental part of founder Alvin Ailey’s continuing legacy. Artists Carmen DeLavalallade, Dudley Williams, Judith Jamison, Miguel Godreau, Linda Kent, Sara Yarborough, Sarita Allen, Gary deLoatch, Desmond Richardson, and Renee Robinson all possessed an innate ability beyond technique, a God given gift that unfortunately cannot be taught. When the stage lights hit these special individuals it is refracted into dazing, flawless, pure light that pulls you in… moth to flame. Celeste Linda Sims is pure light. Continue reading

12/12/18 O&A NYC REVIEW: Lazarus- Ailey American Dance Theater

By Walter Rutledge

Rennie Harris has achieved two “firsts” during the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s 60th anniversary season. Harris has become the first year-long Ailey Artist-in-Residence and his ballet Lazarus is the first two act ballet commissioned by the company. The hour-long work shows significant artistic growth and is less hip-hop and more Harris. Continue reading

11/23/18 O&A NYC SHALL WE DANCE FRIDAY: Khalia Campbell- Living Her Dream

By Walter Rutledge

Dancer Khalia Campbell is living her dream! Years of dedication, sacrifice and ole fashion hard work has taken this Bronx native to her “dream job” as a member of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Campbell will make her New York City Center debut during the company’s fall season November 28 through December 30. Continue reading

11/22/18 O&A NYC WHAT’S HAPPENING THIS WEEK: November 22 through December 1, 2018 (Including Thanksgiving Weekend Guide)- Art, Dance, Film, Music, Theatre and More


Thanksgiving signals the official start of the holiday season. It is also the beginning of the holiday arts season and this week the excitement is palpable. Theatre aboard from City College to Hell’s Kitchen, music brings back the 60’s on the Upper Westside, with protest art in Chelsea; and while the Ailey company celebrates turning 60 in midtown, we have a group of over 60 “Sugar Babies” dancing in  Harlem. Here are a few of the many events happening in the city that never sleeps, guaranteed to keep you Out and About.

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10/25/18 O&A NYC WHAT’S HAPPENING- WEEKEND PICKS: OCTOBER 25 THROUGH OCTOBER 28, 2018

It’s beginning to feel a lot like fall in New York City. The chill in the air reminds us that culture and fall go together like NYC bagels and lox. This week there is art by older artists at MoMA, Jazz heating up the Village, scary movies for those pre-Halloween gitters, and dance all over NYC. Here are a few of the many events happening in the city that never sleeps, guaranteed to keep you Out and About.

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