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Flash Review 2, 12-6: Repent and Rejoice
At the Church of Fierce Dancing with the Ailey

By Maura Nguyen Donohue
Copyright 2000 Maura Nguyen Donohue

Repent and rejoice Dance Insinners. Dance is alive and full of strength and joy with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. And you've got four more weeks to get your stressed out, bah humbug self to worship at the church of fierce dancing. Viewing last night's All-Ailey program at City Center was like staring into a diamond; the deeper you look, the more it shines.

While teaching last spring I'd ask my comp. students to cite any professional choreographers, companies or dancers they liked. I was shockingly reminded that many young dancers come to college departments having never seen anything other than Jennifer Lopez or their local dance studio recital. However, the one company that's almost always sure to have been seen by someone in the room is Ailey. And I say, Hear, hear. There is no understating the importance of witnessing firsthand the powerhouses that call themselves dancers in this company.

Now, I'm feeling a little under-qualified, or a little over-biased, to critique some of the company members. There was a time when I was attempting life as an Ailey baby. During college, I was so scared of living alone in NYC that I quit the Ailey summer program before it'd even begun. But, when a few years later Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson set work on the company I was working with in Seattle I realized I wasn't gonna be gettin' what I needed anywhere else. So, I got my ass back to the City and finally made it to the summer program. A little older, actually I now felt a lot older and realized that membership in AAADT was not in the cards. But not before a select group of students were able to work with Kevin Wynn as he set "Mawalisa Dance" on us. I saw a bunch of them soon after during Ailey II's season uptown, but what a wonderful surprise to open the program last night and see some of their names. And to see how they're realizing themselves as dancers in what I consider to be the best company on the planet.

Now, I can say that and still prefer a different aesthetic because I've yet to see a dance company that performs with more overwhelming love married to exquisite technical skill. No one can match the shear energy output that is generated when this company performs. And, to see it perform a work like "Revelations" with live, live, live music is to die and gain entry into heaven. Thank you Billy Porter, Ella Mitchell and Gale Limansky for the sonic boom. The power of their voices intermingled with the overwhelming outpouring of heart and soul on stage sent every cell of my body into frenzy. Anthony Burrell, Jeremiah Tatum and Kevin Boseman moved through "Sinner Man" with such explosive prowess you could see their tracers slicing through the space. Benoit-Swan Pouffer is a sincere partner for the elegant Linda-Denise Evans in "Fix Me, Jesus."

In this company men and women are both beautiful and everyone is strong. No one exemplifies this better than Dwana Adiaha Smallwood in "Cry." She is agony and ecstacy embodied. Each gesture, every contraction, every drop to the ground or throw of the arms is sizzling with emotion and intensity. "Cry" stands as one of the best modern dance solos ever created. Despite what I said in last week's rant on Sydney Dance Company's press coverage, if you happened to catch the Sunday New York Times piece on the "'Cry' girls," this time Do Believe the Hype. "Cry" is an empowering testament to the will of women and the sensitivity of the one man who created it. "Blues Suite" and "Phases" were a joy to watch. They each revel in their musical influences and capture moments in time with zeal and playfulness. They also offer ample opportunities to reveal how each dancer executes even the simplest movement beyond what would seem its fullest capacity. Each section consumes the space with dancing that is beyond "full-out" -- it is enormous. So, get thee to City Center, and rouse your spirit.

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