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 Post subject: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre in UK
PostPosted: Fri Sep 02, 2005 3:53 am 
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In loving memory
by MARY BRENNAN for the Scotland Herald

Somehow, as the echoes of an outstanding feast of Edinburgh Festival dance begin to fade away, the prospect of the Ailey company hitting town revives the spirits.

published: September 1, 2005
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 08, 2005 1:03 pm 
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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre
by JUDITH MACKRELL for the Guardian

... as a dance work, Love Stories is a mess. Battle's section feels bolted on, an awkward gesture towards political uplift, and in repertory terms it would have been far more interesting to give the whole work over to Harris, a choreographer interestingly poised between the street and the mainstream and clearly brimming with ideas.

published: September 7, 2005
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 08, 2005 1:10 pm 
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Alvin Ailey
by JUDITH MACKRELL for the Guardian

Jamison's Reminiscin' is a pleasant enough piece, a barroom flirtation in which a crowd of kids eye each other up to a medley of classic, popular songs. Its strengths lie particularly with the men, whom Jamison herds in a wry, testosterone-charged pack but also picks out as sweetly individual romantics - shy, tender, needy.

published: September 8, 2005
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 08, 2005 1:46 pm 
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Lithe, lovely, but lightweight
by SARAH CROMPTON for the Daily Telegraph

But, on the basis of this, the first of two programmes, their skills are in search of choreography that stretches rather than simply showcases them.

published: September 7, 2005
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 08, 2005 1:53 pm 
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Seduced by the sublime
by MARK MONAHAN for the Daily Telegraph

You marvel not just at the visual impact, and at Brown's strength, but in particular at his metronomic timing, without which the piece wouldn't begin to work. Caught is ultimately little more than a five-minute special effect, but boy, it's a good one.

published: September 8, 2005
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PostPosted: Sun Sep 11, 2005 2:27 am 
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Lithe spirit
Alvin Ailey's company still majors in movement and speed. By Jann Parry for The Observer


Judith Jamison, artistic director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre since Ailey's death in 1989, presents the company as a distinct brand, glorying in its popularity. Sellout audiences around the world respond to its heady blend of African-American culture and virtuoso modern dance. On its eight-city tour of Britain (until 5 October), every performance will end with Revelations, Ailey's 1960 masterpiece to gospel music. Given with a fervour that never fails, it's a guarantee of a great time.

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PostPosted: Mon Sep 12, 2005 9:23 am 
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For Love Stories, a gray floor, black box, and candle light used to make transitions provide the setting for fragmented voices and fragmented lighting on the floor a solo performed by Matthew Rushing proceeding ensemble and vignettes. There are no literal stories to be told here. Only three choreographers with very distinct movement vocabularies and approach to performance that allowed the dancers to follow their lead and infuse separate aesthetics with sustenance, emotion, and prowess. Lorenzo Rennie Harris’ break dancing a starting point to evolve a lyrical hip hop movement vocabulary for the Ailey dancers; Robert Battle’s approach to performance a vehicle for gestures and bodily narratives that suggest reclamation of spirit or resistance against those forces that seek to malign; Judith Jamison, the Artistic Director, perhaps finding a muse in the musicality of Matthew Rushing who is moving poetry, his technique supporting the most fluid of interpretations of the music.

The performance of Vespers provided a profound dramatic level to the established technical prowess of the company. The lone figure and the eventual projection of the moon at the start of the work set the tone of measured religious contemplation that escalated to several solos and ensemble movements seemingly meant to purge as well as evoke spiritual gratification. Solo is an exquisitely crafted dance work that is perhaps a vehicle to illustrate the male dancers’ flexible prowess; a range from the neo classical to the strength to accomplish the demands of Harris’ aesthetic with ease. Revelations a classic by anyone’s standard ends the evening receiving a standing ovation.

I sat next to a man who had seen the company 45 years ago. This man marvelled at the beauty of Solo and applauded with enthusiasm at the end. This man also swayed and tapped his foot, and subtly shook his shoulders in tandem with the music and the moves of the dancers at Revelations. A party behind me spoke Italian but sang “rocka my soul!” in almost the same dialectical twang as the vocals of the sound track. The spirit that rolled off the stage all evening was testament to the type and quality of training the Ailey dancers receive. Their love of dance infectious as well as inspirational but also reinforced and confirmed for those who know what levels of dedication are needed to obtain such high standards of perfection.

I am angered and embarrassed at the innuendo from Judith Mackrell’s (review Guardian, September 7, 2005) suggestion that the Ailey Company celebrates “non-white dance” but is less effectual than it was in 1958 and that a work within the pantheon of respected African American choreographies could “look a little dated” intimating that this legacy has no history, Zoë Anderson (The Independent, September 8, 2005) playing the race card and missing the point of Ailey’s legacy because the Ailey company has never been a “black company”, and how dare Clement Crisp (Financial Times, September 7, 2005) suggest that Hans van Manen’s Solo not respect the “black ethos” of the company because it has a neoclassical style and not a choreography that “stressed a racial manner”. These renown critics don’t know or perhaps they forgot what possibilities a repertory company of the calibre of Alvin Ailey projects with its dancers and its program; to realise the legacy was first and foremost about dance and yes to use dance to speak of the experiences of African Americans in the first instance but also to speak of the American experience, a diverse, multifaceted experience with several cultural expressions and permutations; that white and black, African/African American and European dance forms and music are all valued aesthetics there to be used by the company because they dare to study and train hard to do anything a choreographer envisions. There is an understanding that Ailey’s legacy is about possibility and opportunity for all people, respecting the past but acknowledging and being present in the here and now. It’s a pity that these particular critics missed the point and got stuck in their ill informed thoughts of what is “black” and its relation to “white”.

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THEA NERISSA BARNES


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 13, 2005 8:48 am 
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On Tuesday 6th September, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater presented their second programme as part of the visit to Sadler’s Wells.

The first piece of the evening was “Shining Star”, a piece choreographed in 2004 by the American choreographer David Parsons to the music of Earth, Wind & Fire. The ballet opened with a song choreographed for the ten dancers used in the piece. It was a promising start, but unfortunately, the dance as a whole did not live up to expectations. The remaining numbers were just a fashionable take on the music’s rhythm that added nothing to the songs themselves. Not even “September” managed to carry the dancers along its wonderful melodic lines. I could not help thinking while watching the piece what a sad waste it was. The dancers are simply terrific and yet, they did not shine as one knows they could, mainly because of the flat and conventional choreography that they were given.

The programme continued with “Caught”, a solo for Clifton Brown, also choreographed by David Parsons. Though the choreography was very simple, the visual result was a joy to watch. The lighting effects that Parsons used were so inventive and yet so simple, that it brought the house down. It was effective, it was a joy to watch and it challenged our expectations. Basically, the solo consisted of jumps and travelling steps executed to intermittent lighting, which created the wonderful effect of watching a dancer suspended in space. Timing for the dancer was essential and Brown was simply perfect. A great piece of theatrical inventiveness and entertainment.

Next came “Reminiscin’”, by the director of the company, Judith Jamison. The piece was created in 2005 and it showed, once again, how desperately this company needs a choreographer capable of showcasing the talent the group has. Like in “Shining Star”, the choreography fell flat in its intentions. Like in “Shining Star” what the audience saw was but a glimpse of the group’s mastery of rhythm and musicality combined with technical ability, but once again, we were left with no memorable images to remember. The movement was reminiscing of cliché imagery seen in many musicals well prior to our days. Only a duet performed by two men seemed to incorporate something new and challenging both choreographically and in their obvious sexual meaning.

Then, finally, came “Revelations” (1960) and it was then that the troupe, as it has become customary, came alive. Ailey’s masterpiece has managed to pass the test of time with flying honours. In fact, I am the first to admit that it was “Revelations” that I went to see, and by hearing the audience around me, I was not the only one.

“Revelations” is one of those dance works that manages to capture the essence of music, feeling, rhythm and technical challenge. It shows what a choreographer of genius can achieve by the simplest means of expression. It shows how sincerity of purpose and execution can affect an audience… a reminder of what dance can do. To see the company, years on, managing to bring the piece alive as a monument to their own existence is an achievement in itself and a wonder in our times.

The ballet opens with a group of dancers in beautiful compositions resembling birds. The following songs continue in the style, very much linked to the contemporary dance experiments of its time, until it gets to “Wade in the Water”. I still remember the first time I saw this number back in the early nineties, the impact it had on me and the way it affected my appreciation of dance. It is simply magnificent in its simplicity, sincerity and theatricality. The resonace this song had, after the recent tragic events in New Orleans, was felt in the air.

From “Wade in the Water” onwards, “Revelations” becomes Ailey’s statement on dance. Of course there are still moments that echo the contemporary dance scene of his day, like “I Wanna Be Ready” with all those wonderful contractions and floor work. However, “Sinner Man” and the glorious end are all Ailey’s. No other choreographer could have come up with such a vision and such a purpose and I doubt that any other company could bring it alive as his dancers do.

The evening ended on a high, as it has become the norm after such a masterpiece is performed. It was wonderful to see the talent in the company, the commitment in the dancers, the glory of a heritage kept alive by the sheer joy of making it known to new audiences and generations. Pity that the company cannot find a figure of its stature capable of providing them with new work up to their standards. Still, we have to be grateful for their commitment and understanding to their past heritage and for their ability to make it relevant to all of us forty five years on!


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 14, 2005 2:19 am 
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Firstly, just to agree with Thea Nerissa Barnes, in reference to her indignance at Judith Mackrell's judgement that the company's repertoire looked 'dated'. Well isn't that the point? It is a credit to the legacy of the company that they have created their own repertoire that has withstood time, and can be viewed by different audiences over time, or even the same ones (as my mother and people of her generation can testify). We don't hear complaints that classical ballet companies' repertoires look 'dated' when they perform works that are centuries old.

A work such as "Revelations" contained historical references, and re-presentations of the black American experience when it was made in 1980. This history is still highly relevant and we should celebrate that is has been recorded in such as visually enjoyable format. What's more the emotional content that re-presents aspects of human experience must be acknowledged beyond the movement styles in which they are packaged.

In the 1980s, the Graham-esque movements that underpin some of Ailey's motifs would have been viewed as the norm for contemporary dance choreography, and the use of undiluted un-jazz-ified African dance repertoire as a novelty to a mainstream audience. Now, however, we can really 'see' both of these two main styles (plus identify and acknowledge the ballet training of the dancers) each as a sign of the times, and if anything it is the Graham technique that appears a little quaint.

If we must get caught up in racial politics, rather than being pernicketty about small nuances within one dance company, we should be looking at the global politics of why we in the UK are not questioning the international promotion of such a wholesome version of Black American experiences and histories. The up-beat imagery and sounds of "Revelations" is a vivid contrast with the media images of stranded, flood-torn families we have been bombarded with in newspapers and on television lately.

And finally, apropos of nothing (other than seeing renowned local South Asian dance choreographer Piali Ray in the audience at Birmingham Hippodrome), I wonder where are all the American-born South Asian dance artists? I know they are out there: when can we see and celebrate their achievements?


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 14, 2005 3:46 am 
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Alvin Ailey played to a full house on opening night. London dance audience’s love Ailey and it has been a coup for Sadler’s Wells to present the company twice in the recent memory. This programme took us on a journey with Ailey from the company’s groundbreaking work in the 1960s through to where the company could be going in the 21st century.

The evening opened with Love Stories (2004), co-choreographed by Rennie Harris, Judith Jamison and Robert Battle all to the musical genius of Stevie Wonder. Love Stories seemed unfinished to me, I felt it was stuck it together with unconvincing transitions. The piece was a series portraits of the dancers in rehearsal, warming up, in the club– all locations for what the soundtrack told us which was “Black people dancing at home”. Rennie Harris’ mixed contemporary/modern/ street/club vernacular was stamped all over this work and these moments were the most engaging points in the work. Here, the dancers pushed themselves physically and the movement allowed them to express their own individuality. I looked around the audience to see their reaction, there seemed to be a stony cold “what am I watching?” vibe in the rows around me, but they warmed up towards the end of the piece. Dwana Adiaha Smallwood and Hope Boykin were the most exhuberent performers in this number and led the rest of the chorus in breaking down the cold barrier. This work is a good indicator of where the company is going, but perhaps Ms. Jamison and Mr Battle should have stepped back and allowed Mr. Harris to do the work. If Ms. Jamison is to relinquish her reign of the company at some point, she must be prepared to let go, take the risk and allow young blood to grow into the role and lead the company into postmodern times.

Vespers (1986) choreographed by the late Ulysses Dove, was a perfect study of modern dance as well as a pre-cursor to Paul Taylor’s Speaking in Tongues (1991). If Ailey’s aim was for the company to be a “hothouse” of modern dance experimentation, this work is it’s living legacy. There were six dancers in severe black costume, each with her own chair. The dance gave one the feeling of a religious experience, almost erotic, where the dancers have visions outside of themselves. Dove’s mathematically precise choreography used simple patterns and repetition and the dancers did this choreographic jewel justice without a single foot, hand or gesture of the mark. Again, Ms. Smallwood and Ms Boykin stood and played their characters with integrity and as an audience member, I believe in them and I am transported with them to this other place.

Hans van Manen’s Solo (1997) was performed by danseur of the night Clifton Brown and Glenn Allen Sims, Matthew Rusing. It’s absolutely brilliant watching a modern company push its capabilities and venture into the classical realm. This simple trio to the strains of Bach allowed the audience to see the versatility of the three men. It was lighthearted and humorous, a stark contrast to Vespers. The audience enjoyed it and everyone was smiling by the end.

Finally, the dance that everyone looks forward to - Revelations (1960). The company did not disaapoint and there were standing ovations before it even ended and an encore, with New Orleans drowning half a world away, London was celebrating one of the Southern US’s most notable sons.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 14, 2005 5:52 am 
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‘Shining Star’, ‘Caught’, ‘Reminiscin’, ‘Revelations’ - Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre
Birmingham Hippodrome, 13th September 2005


The Ailey company has achieved what few other dance companies have managed. They have a distinct image, a brand if you like, and present a form of American modern dance that almost no-one else comes close to. There is a natural focus on Ailey’s own works, but Artistic Director Judith Jamison has worked hard to show that the company is not a museum piece, this evening including one new and one nearly new work.

‘Reminiscin’ is a new work by Jamieson herself. Set to a medley of popular songs it features a curved late-night bar at which the dancers sit and talk, occasionally breaking away to dance with each other. It’s all about relationships, easy on the eye and pleasant enough. ‘Love me or Leave Me’, heard once sung by Sarah Vaughan and once by Nina Simone, pretty much summed up what was going on. However, apart from the upbeat end it only really hits the right note during a beautifully touching duet danced to Diana Krall’s rendition of Joni Mitchell’s ‘A Case of You’, in which the dancers show their love, support and enjoyment of being with each other. The rest of it all rather lacked any sort of fizz although the men looked especially strong except for one brief all male duet that was surprisingly shaky.

‘Reminiscin’ was however a huge improvement on David Parsons’ 2004 work, ‘Shining Star’, that opened the evening. Set in what seemed like a 1970’s disco to six songs from Earth, Wind and Fire’s ‘Greatest Hits Collection’ it was a John Travolta meets The Supremes sort of a piece. Again, it only hit the mark once. The central duet, by Linda Celeste Sims and Glenn Allen Sims was full of incredibly smooth effortless lifts. When it was good it was very good but too much of the rest, danced to lights across the back of the stage, was reminiscent of some awful backing group or early pop video.

‘Caught’, a Parsons’ work from 1982, really showed up just how ‘Shining Star’ failed to hit the mark. Short and simple, this solo is a perfect example of how ‘less can be more’. Pocket dynamo Clifton Brown moved around the stage with such ease, first dancing in four spotlights, then being caught in flashes of strobe lighting, at first on the ground, but later in mid-air. It almost seems as if he never touches the ground. It’s all incredibly athletic and visually stunning. Of course ‘Caught’ is a more a technical trick than clever timing, but a good technical trick for all that. The work is now also danced by women and it would be interesting to see the different qualities they would bring to it.

‘Revelations’ as ever had the audience rocking in their seats. It closes every performance of the tour and you can see why. This 1960 Ailey signature work shows all the gospel and blues influences he brought from the Deep South. It’s one of those rare works that doesn’t seem to age and continues to pack a punch. The audience lapped it up and quite rightly. ‘Revelations’ was streets ahead of the other two longer pieces and still shows the company at its best.

With the Ailey company you know pretty much what you are going to get - a fairly easy going evening of dance that everyone can understand, may not be especially challenging, but will send most people home happy. All of which is important. And they succeed. They do have some wonderful dancers with great strength, stamina, speed and fluidity. Maybe that’s proved by how easy they make it all look. For me much of it was all a bit too predictable and unfulfilling and quite a lot of the time I just has that feeling the dancers weren’t being challenged either.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 14, 2005 7:49 am 
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Thank you all (Thea Nerissa Barnes, Ana Abad-Carles, cerise, Christine and David) for you wonderful comments and reviews. It sounds like the tour of the UK is doing well, despite some jaded reviews by the press.


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PostPosted: Sun Sep 18, 2005 1:37 am 
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Don't stop the dance
By JACKIE MCGLONE for Scotland on Sunday


ALL proud beauty, gleaming hoop earrings and spiky false eyelashes, Judith Jamison looms large in the foyer of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's spanking-new home in New York. In the iconic black-and-white photograph, which has been blown up to fill one wall of the lobby space in the 79 million building, the bare-shouldered Jamison looks like a Nubian princess. She gazes enigmatically to the right, while Alvin Ailey, the visionary dancer and choreographer, stands to the left behind her, engaging the viewer in direct eye-contact.

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PostPosted: Sun Sep 18, 2005 1:28 pm 
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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre
Donald Hutera at Sadler’s Wells for The Times


The relationship between the Alvin Ailey company and its public is a kind of communal love affair. The love-in began at the top of Tuesday’s decidedly mixed bill, the second of two programmes with which the troupe is touring Britain until October 5.

The American choreographer David Parsons’s Shining Star is a facile pop ballet set to the funky music of the 1970s band Earth, Wind & Fire. Four friendly couples support a central duo, Linda Celeste Sims and Glenn Allen Sims.

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*****************************

Alvin Alley American Dance Theatre
By Debra Craine for The Times


No doubt about it. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre is riding high. If the opening night of the company’s big UK tour was any indication, audiences here are in for a treat courtesy of these conquering New Yorkers.

Their recipe is simple and direct, and it’s unbelievably successful. More than 21 million people have warmed to their unique blend of African-American culture and modern dance tradition.

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PostPosted: Wed Sep 21, 2005 2:19 pm 
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Capturing new audiences for modern dance
by KELLY APTER for the Scotsman

Having over 200 works in the company repertoire to choose from, 70 of which were created by Ailey himself, she says she is able to put together accessible programmes which appeal to all: "The accessibility is not that the work is easy, but that all people should be exposed to all kinds of dance. You don't have to comprehend everything that you see, but we want you to have a reaction to it."

published: September 19, 2005
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