Monday, September 24, 2012

Straight A's For Alvin Ailey

Reviewing Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is a little bit like trying to assess the infamous (and now closed) El Bulli, long considered the world’s finest restaurant.

Ailey and his dancers are so dominant in the genre (if only for the vice grip he still retains on patron’s imaginations over 20 years after his death) that it can be hard to feel that there is anything new to say. Are their performances emotive? Well matched? Essentially flawless? Yes, yes and yes. Who wants to read that review?
Alas, I find I must join the legion of admirers continually flocking to Ailey’s praise. It’s just that good. And since they don’t visit Minneapolis very often, I’ll recommend right off the bat that anyone with even a fleeting interest in dance check out their last performance at the Orpheum Theatre tonight.
Take Revelations, Ailey’s claim to fame and the troupe’s show-stopping last number. The piece debuted in 1960, shortly after Ailey formed his company, and tells the story of African-American history and influences (although it really transcends all of that). From slavery to the Carribean to a sweaty Baptist church, Revelations somehow marries Roots and The Color Purple to pop culture before all of that even existed. It is the world’s most performed dance piece in history, and it’s easy to see why.
Revelations is paced by its music, and its clear standout is the brief and highly charged “Sinner Man.” Three acrobatic male dancers jete, pirouette and blaze across the stage in a mad frenzy, and it is riveting. Better than the Olympics, in some ways.
The rest of the show is comprised of much shorter vignettes, each of which was equally a joy to watch. Journey, a tribute to deceased choreographer Joyce Trisler, is a ghostly and pelican-like strut. Home, the opening piece, starts slow and picks up to a tribal infused classical hip hop frenzy. Home is also a new commissioned piece about the solace found in clubbing by people who were infected with AIDS at the beginning of the epidemic.
Company Artistic Director Robert Battle’s programming is flawless, and thankfully also included two pieces he choreographed, both of which were clear audience favorites.Takademe and The Hunt were heavily influenced by precise martial arts. Set to a soundtrack of heavy drums, The Hunt was martial arts-meets-hip hop-meets-ballroom dance, and its primal nature was offset with some gorgeous skirted costumes.
Historical and contemporary, moving and thrilling, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is a safe bet for a good time and family friendly to boot. If you can’t make it tonight, too bad -- you might have to wait a few more years until they come around again.
+ Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, presented by Northrop Dance, returns to the Orpheum Theater on Wednesday, May 2. For tickets and more information