Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
artistic director Robert Battle
Sadler's Wells, London • 5-16.Sep.23
Celebrating the establishment of the Alvin Ailey company in 1958, this mixed bill season features four programmes that feature both old and new numbers. I attended the first night, titled Contemporary Voices, featuring three recent pieces followed by a thunderous work choreographed by Ailey himself.
The mood lightens considerably with For Four (2021, choreography by Robert Battle), a bouncy piece accompanied by soft jazz from Wynton Marsalis. The dancing is reactive to the music rather than interactive, which makes it feels a bit simplistic. But it's also charming, bright and energetic, packed with witty touches. A moment featuring an American flag and a shirtless Black dancer is perhaps deliberately jarring. But the jaunty vibe swiftly returns.
Finally, the main event is Revelations (1960, choreography by Ailey), which uses traditional spirituals as musical accompaniment while the simply glorious dancing creates huge emotional impact. This is a powerfully moving multi-part performance, and perhaps it's clear that the dancers themselves know this, as they pour their skill and passion into each expressive move. The result is visceral and shattering in way that's both challenging and uplifting. Scenes shift through a series of movements, including a summery sequence with a white parasol and a group number featuring church ladies with quivering fans. Shimmering and evocative, and bursting with soulfulness, the scenes escalate as the group takes on a punchy Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham. And the curtain call is gorgeous as well.
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photos by Dario Calmese & Paul Kolnik • 5.Sep.23