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Ailey II

'Intimate Voices,' 'Divining,' 'The Hunt,' and 'Revelations'

by Mary Ellen Hunt

January 21, 2005 – Stanford Lively Arts, Memorial Auditorium, Stanford University, CA

A visit from the Ailey companies, young or older, always engenders in my mind the fleeting thought, “Geez, I have GOT to hit the gym…” In my household, a single viewing of any of their dancers is likely spark far more abdominal crunches than any New Year’s resolution ever called for. And so it was with their recent performance at Stanford Lively Arts in Palo Alto.

Ailey's main company is so strong that it would be easy to think of Ailey II as merely a training ground or a feeder -- and indeed over half of the current members of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater have come through the Ailey II. But the dancers of this young group, who range from teens to early twenties, are a company in their own right, touring extensively, in 27 cities this season alone. That they are so professional is only an indication of how ultra-professional the main company is, and this is evident right off the bat.

The evening starts out with Igal Perry’s “Intimate Voices” a work Perry made originally for his New York based company Peridance, although he's made some adjustments especially for Ailey II's version.

Set to Six Suites for Unaccompanied Cello by J.S. Bach, the piece is marked a simple, almost plain monochromaticity, leavened only by a slash of colored light on the backdrop as each new interlude begins. The dancers, clad simply in dark unitards that border on 70s retro, respond to the music with decided authority and a strong focus for performers so young.

Courtney-Brene Corbin opens the piece with a secure, supple solo, followed by a gracefully exuberant Marcus Williams. In “Like an Arrow” Yusha-Marie Sorzano is appropriately swift, and there is a power that also marks James A. Pierce’s “Relentless” solo as well as the complex duets that mark the other sections of the piece.

Solo work, though, was a defining strength of the show, with Corbin returning in an excerpt from Judith Jamison’s Afro-Latin tinged “Divining.” With the other-worldy hint of forest sounds, Corbin swept across the stage like a woman possessed, swinging sarong-wrapped hips with a canny mix of abandon and control.

A sextet of men (Unterreo Edwards, Pierce, Tyrell Rolle, Gregory Sinacori, Marcus Willis and Ricky Sayas) evoked a more masculine, even at times disturbing, view of possession with Robert Battle’s “The Hunt.”

Other all-male works have hit on similar ground, including Ohad Naharin’s “Black Milk,” which the main company performed two years ago on tour. The testosterone pumped, high energy choreography-- which Battle apparently intends to evoke male rituals from sports to warfare-- has a primal thrill, but one can’t help feeling a little guilty that, with all those undulating torsos, the appeal of this test of endurance might be more as eye-candy than art. Nevertheless, the six men dominated the stage with charisma, evincing no less grace than in “Intimate Voices.”

In an ongoing Ailey tradition, the company closed with a curiously quiet-spirited rendition of Alvin Ailey’s perennial gospel tribute “Revelations.” Of course, that subdued feeling didn’t keep Corbin and Rolle from delivering a moving “Fix Me Jesus” with an emotional highlight in Corbin’s slow, controlled pitch backward in a layout. During the entire Take Me to the Water section, however -- the middle of the tripartite ballet -- the atmosphere seemed more religious than exuberant, and the “Honor, Honor” procession was almost understated. Nevertheless, Unterreo Edwards’ stunningly controlled “I Wanna Be Ready” left no doubt that he’ll be one of those young people we’ll see with the main company soon.

As for those abs-- well, at least I still have a few weeks before the main company comes to Cal Performances for their annual season.

Edited by Editor

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