6/11/23 O&A NYC DANCE REVIEW: Ailey At BAM

By Walter Rutledge

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater presented a Brooklyn dance series June 6th thru 11th at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). The six-day seven performance series offered two well curated programs of new works and Ailey classics. The Saturday evening performance consisted of four works by four modern dance luminaries, Kyle Abraham, Robert Battle, Ron Brown and Paul Taylor.

Ron Brown’s Dancing Spirit opened the program. This soulful sojourn epitomizes the choreographer’s effortless amalgam of western dance and choreographic design with West African inspired movement. This diasporic blend has become his movement signature and was on full display in this work. Throughout the work Brown introduced and reintroduced developed movement phrases and gestures that created a very distinct movement vocabulary- a dance language. This third of an evening work brilliantly culminated with an energetic ensemble celebration.

Robert Battle presented a quartet, which was as clever as the duality in the work’s title- For Four. The whimsical up-tempo frolic showcased the versatility of dancers Ashley Kaylynn Green, Xavier Mack, Hannah Alissa Richardson and Diedre Rogan, who performed with both aplomb and precision, punctuating the score with crystalline clarity. Set to the music of Winton Marsalis Battle’s sophisticated syncopated attack was anything but “four- four”.

To the credit of dancers Jacqueline Harris and Renaldo Maurice their performance of Duet by modern dance master Paul Taylor displayed the proper control and athleticism. This witty sculpturally kinesthetic pas de deux is much harder than it looked. Fortunately, the dancers performed with the appropriate Taylor-que stylistic weight. Kudos to Maurice for making the herculean lifts appear feather light.

The common thread throughout the evening was simplicity and economy. Each work had Euclidian directness, which allowed the choreographers to create works showcasing their own individuality. It could be compared to a painter’s brushstrokes. The evenings final work Are You In Your Feelings by Kyle Abraham embodies this credo.

A second bout of Covid prevented us from commenting on Abraham’s new work during the Ailey City Center season. This time we were on a mission to experience the work and Abraham did not disappoint. Sprinkled with “rainbow” flavors, his depiction of relationships transcended gender, conformity and social norms in true Abraham style.

If there is a power in truth, then Abraham’s vision has a courageous humanistic honesty that defies and redefines the universality of relationships. An engaging and eclectic music score with music ranging from rap, to spoken word, R&B and ambient music and sound helped make the work multi- generational.

 A wonderful example was the duet set to Shirley Brown’s 1974 R&B hit Woman to Woman. The song deals with a conversation between two women about a cheating spouse. Abraham masterfully manipulated the song transforming it into a Sappho double entendre danced with great yet subdued affection.

The works movement vocabulary had a satisfying minimalistic quality- again a directness exhibited in all the works; but here in particular Abraham’s choices created a different type of visual excitement. Dance traditionally is about movement. Abraham was able to clearly communicate with a modicum of “steps”. The visual interpretation was completed by his uncanny and effective use upper body deportment.

The arms had an unencumbered holistic quality as the movement seemed to eminent from the back and radiate through the body. This quality gave the dance a naturalness and freedom that Abraham successfully capitalized on time and time again. He created a powerful ensemble crescendo, which traditionally should have concluded the work. Instead, Abraham ended the work with a duet, which seemed to function more as an epilog that a finale.

Are You In Your Feelings is fresh and innovative. An enjoyable and aesthetically pleasing yet powerful work, which shows the artistic breath of phenom Abraham. We hope it remains in the Ailey repertoire for many seasons to come.

In Photo: Members of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. 2) Cast 3) Solomon Dumas, Samantha Figgins, Belen Indhira Pereyra and Renaldo Maurice,  4) Chalvar Monteiro and Ashley Green
Photo Credit: 1) Dario Calmese 2-4) Paul KolniK

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