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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre

The 50th anniversary season of Alvin Ailey's dream come true not only provides a perfect opportunity for the company to reflect on and celebrate its remarkable contribution to dance and its cultural ambassadorship for such, but also for a celebration of these achievements for the tens of millions who have had the thrill of experiencing the company's extraordinary talents.

Linda Celeste Sims
Linda Celeste Sims
Photo: Andrew Eccles
As part of their golden anniversary tour, the company has three performances in Denver, April 4-6. Each begins with a short, beautifully produced, directed, and edited film that features interviews with Ailey and his once star dancer, now (for 20 years) artistic director, Judith Jamison. Even for those familiar with the roots of this legendary dance theatre, the ten-minute big screen collage provides a fresh context for its milestones, including its world-renowned school, summer camp, and foundation.

The opening and closing night program features:

  • Love Stories, choreography by Judith Jamison, with Robert Battle and Rennie Harris, set to the music of Stevie Wonder, with original composition by Darrin Ross;
  • the world premiere of The Groove to Nobody's Business, choreography by Camille A. Brown, music by Ray Charles and Brandon McCune; and
  • Solo, choreography by Hans van Manen, music by Johann Sebastian Bach.

All three performances end with Ailey's immortal Revelations, a soul-stirring masterwork that never fails to bring the audience to their feet, clapping along to the final spiritual, "Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham."

Jamison's Love Stories serves as an eye-opening introduction to the company's physical vocabulary, beginning with a single dancer's short warm-up and then launching into a series of astonishingly fluid riffs that are simultaneously atheletic and joyous. The rhymic underpinnings of drums and sticks pick up after Steve Wonder's intro, leading to a masterful showcasing of balance, strength, and musicality: breakdancing meets ballet. The piece concludes with a funky blues groove, culminating in a holding of hands facing a dazzling, iconic sky.

Brown's The Groove to Nobody's Business is an impressive and promising debut, digging right into the heartbeat and pulse of NYC urbanity. J. Wiese's scenic skyline with an attitude and Caroln Meckha Cherry's full-spectrum threads bring a contemporary feel to Jazz Age sass. Music from brother Ray sets the tone for this witty, gritty take on love and street smarts.

Antonio Douthit and Kirven J. Boyd
Antonio Douthit
and Kirven J. Boyd
Photo: Andrew Eccles
Hans van Manen's Solo is an absolutely stunning study of the capability of the human form to bring alive the genius in a set of string compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach. Like living breathing oscilloscopes for the master's mathematical waveforms, Clifton Brown, Jamar Roberts, and Antonio Douthit emmanate ever more complex variations of the vibrational poem. Counterpoints in the score set up a good-natured cutting contest between the dancers.

Linda Celeste Sims and Glenn Allen Sims
Linda Celeste Sims
and Glenn Allen Sims
Photo: Andrew Eccles
Finally, we are transported across the River Jordan by Ailey's signature piece, Revelations. If you've never seen this performed live, or if you've seen in a dozen times, it makes no difference. Revelations is everything its name implies, including a transformational experience worthy of the vision of St. John the Divine. Set to ten evocative and inspirationally-voiced traditional spirituals, it is nothing short of the spirit made manifest through dance. The lyrics tell the tale of a people delivered from slavery by their faith to believe it so. It honors the universal truths—to be found like diamonds in the rough—that lie amidst the temporal prejudices of the Torah and the Christian Bible. All the crafts of dance and theatre are integrated in delivering a message so beautifully rendered that it has clearly become the most popular single dance work in the world.

The Colorado Ballet's and Cleo Parker Robinson Dance's presentation of Alving Ailey American Dance Theatre runs through April 6th at the Ellie Caulkins Opera House. 303-893-4100 or www.denvercenter.org.

 

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