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Flash Review, 12-8:
Boom, Boom, Boom.... Sigh
De Lavallade Takes Ailey Back to the Foundations
By Susan Yung
Copyright 2000 Susan Yung
In the world premiere
of "Sweet Bitter Love" last night at City Center, Carmen de Lavallade
conveyed the sincere emotional depth that has made the Alvin Ailey
American Dance Theater famous and beloved. In the context of the
evening's program, which included works by artistic director Judith
Jamison ("Divining" and "Double Exposure") and Ronald K. Brown ("Grace")
it served as a blatant reminder of the company's foundations, which
were sadly missing in most of the rest of the program.
"Sweet Bitter Love" featured
Renee Robinson and Glenn Sims as a couple in various states of love.
Dancing to pop songs from the not-too-distant past sung by Roberta
Flack and Donny Hathaway, the performers wore elegant evening-wear
costumes by Geoffrey Holder. Sims captured the conflicting male
sensibilities of yearning and stoicism, while Robinson played the
perfect romantic foil. The choreography incorporated spans of attenuated
movement and settling stillness; de Lavallade captured in quick
moments the iconography of longing and sorrow, wisely finding no
need to repeat movements numerous times. The evocative music played
a significant role in sustaining the heightened emotional state,
choreographed by a knowing, deft hand.
showed off the talents of the company's men to a percussion score
by Kimati Dinizulu and Monti Ellison. However, it seemed like the
dancers were in tension the whole time; I wanted them to release
their energy more. Her second work, "Double Exposure," used a tiny
video camera held by one of the dancers; the image was occasionally
projected onto a split screen, alternating with abstract morphs
and matrices. The two men (Jeffrey Gerodias and Clifton Brown) were
given much more interesting sections, while the three women (Briana
Reed, Rosalyn Sanders, and Tina Williams) were relegated to minor
roles and supplicating moves, which was a bit puzzling. The vocabulary,
predominated by double and triple turns and limitless fan kicks,
repeated itself in no time; it was like reading a newspaper full
of repetitive headlines and no factual text. Boom, boom, boom.
Ron Brown's "Grace" capped
the program, which was a good thing because it was exhausting to
watch, especially following "Double Exposure." The first ten minutes
of hard-driving, explosive choreography, a blend of African dance
with hip-hop tweaks and a martial arts attitude, was exhilarating.
After that, it became a marathon, at least for the audience. Performed
to a collage of throbbing music, it looked immensely more fun to
perform than it felt to watch. Brown has a totally refreshing new
take on African dance; if he would alter the dynamics within a long
work such as this, it would surely reveal even more of his talent.
So, it was Ailey: Of
course there was impressive virtuosity and a fusillade of technical
tours de force. But the presence of "Sweet Bitter Love" was a proof
that power and driving rhythms can be balanced with gentleness and
serenity with no loss of impact. Just because the dancers can perform
all that hard stuff for that long doesn't mean they must.
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