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Flash Review 2, 8-28:
Planning Life After Dance
Ailey on Ailey for Ailey Dancers
By Terry Hollis
Copyright 2000 Terry Hollis
The Ailey Dancers' Resource
Fund was established to aid performers in that all-important transition
from "dance life" to "real life." Helping bridge that gap with career
advice and financial assistance, the organization recognizes that
there are real lives attached to those beautiful, fluent bodies.
Friday night, in the newly air-conditioned fourth floor studio at
the Ailey School, company members (1st and 2nd) and students from
the school joined forces to show us the wealth of talent and the
level of commitment they have given to this stage of their lives.
Some, already beginning to hone their choreographic skills.
Most of the evening's
works stayed true to the style Alvin Ailey has developed since the
company's inception in March of 1958. For the most part, long, slicing
legs, arms thrusting upwards calling the heavens and ravishing technique
were the order of the day. Imprinted over this, however, was a modern
aesthetic and physical sensibility that pushes the idiom to its
by Hope Boykin (formerly of Philadanco) presented what appear to
be siblings moving through a synchronized mixture of deep reaching
lunges and undulating torsos that are obviously not new to them.
The three "brothers" in the first section seem to have an emotional
investment but stoically move through the work. Costumed in white,
tights and open tops they all feed on the precision and exactness
of the other. Where the first trio focused on union, the second
duet (featuring Asha Thomas and Clifton Brown) divides the two and
places the female in a position of control. The sharp transitions
and some sexually ambiguous moments add to the mind games that this
sister and brother subject each other to.
Anthony Burrell's "Unmarked
Territory" is a hyper-techno driven party. These six brave performers
are less concerned with each other and more interested in slamming
you in the face with their mastery of ballet's basic requirements.
With speed, ferocity and deceptive simplicity Mr. Burrell rockets
them through plies, tendues, rond de jambes, battements, etc. and
mixes and matches the lot until they become a blur. Incredibly,
the dancers manage to impose a cool sexiness over the madness. One
of the evening's high points!
The sinuous Lynn Barre
and the rocksolid Glenn A. Simms gave Benoit-Swan Pouffer's "Amours
Vecus" a primitive energy that kept you focused on every twitch
and thrust of their bodies. They each seemed to want something different
and the piece read as a negotiation not only between them, but with
the ground that they repeatedly dug into. Ms. Barre's ability to
dance with her gut makes a beautifully stretched arabesque appear
to be as normal a display of emotion as laughing or crying. As the
duet ends, the two realize that solace can be found by staying where
they are. "In the Space of a Dream," by Kristofer Storey, was an
airy, lazy, waltz. Low on dramatic intent, it succeeds in lulling
you into the flow of the music (by Silvio Rodriguez Dominguez) and
illustrates the softer side of virtuosity.
"Ordinary People," by
company member Troy O'Neil Powell, was disappointing. Using a pseudo-political
soundtrack that spits out definitions of words such as "man, woman,
God, father..." as accompaniment, Mr. O'Neil's choreography does
little to illustrate or further the use of these strong references.
While he does accomplish an impassive athleticism that mirrors the
soundtrack's literate power, it doesn't move forward, and when the
piece switches to lyricism, no new information is given.
About three seconds into
"Pas de Duke," Alvin Ailey's witty tribute to Duke Ellington's genius,
you know that there is a master at work. Matthew Rushing and (the
incomparable) Asha Thomas are as sly and understated as they come.
They say more with a perfectly timed look or a flirty shrug of a
shoulder than a less experienced performer could. Here the soaring
legs that the company is famous for are put into perfect context.
Glenn A. Sims and Kevin E. Boseman elevate a drunken night on the
town to an art form. Their wobbly legs do more than just hold them
up; their off-kilter high-jinks are both hilarious and heart warming.
Vernard J. Gilmore's classy "Untitled" seemed to be a tribute to
the innocent playfulness of the old movie musical. Gilmore (calling
up the ghost of Gene Kelly) presented a technically challenging
but cavalier solo. The steps skimmed and glided across the floor
and weaved in and out of Rachelle Ferrell's riffs.
Perhaps the most subtle
work of the night was offered by Kristopher Storey (set by Henry
Jackson). In "For All We Know," Mr. Boseman and Derrick Minter painted
a simple portrait of two men in love and the pain involved in losing
someone. The piece worked on the strength of its simplicity. Pulling
and dragging each other across the floor and keeping almost constant
contact, "men" were stripped of the loud bravado that so often characterizes
us on stage and shown as thinking, feeling creatures.
The evening ended with
a bang. Rushing showed the apathetic man against the impassioned,
fiery female making her pleas heard. Set to the music of Nina Simone,
the piece has these women ripping out their hearts and throwing
them piece by piece at their blank-faced counterparts. In the third
section, John Avant gives the men their say. Using Graham-inspired
floor work, Mr. Avant performs a gut-wrenching solo begging his
baby not to go. She sits, as aloof as he is anguished, hears him
out, and leaves. The final section presents a battalion of feminine
energy -- these women mean business. Coming within inches of the
first row, they hit you head on with the power of a woman scorned.
Outfitted in black dresses and black heels they were all stabbing
legs, piercing looks and hips with lots of history. If these artists
tackle their post-performance life with the drive they have given
to this one, they will be just fine.
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