Alvin Ailey Dance Company
- Thom Dibdin
- 27 October 2016
Stunningly exuberant dance that combines precision and skill with flamboyance and true flair.
Ecstatic at times and always exuberant, the choreography for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is delivered with style, grace and an apparently effortless ease. If that is sometimes at odds with the pumping house beats, blues grooves and hypnotic African-infused rhythms, then that just makes the company even more entrancing to watch.
Over two nights the 32-strong company delivered different programmes that each stretched the imaginations of their audiences. For Alvin Ailey newbies, this is dance which takes the classical forms into unimagined territories, incorporating them into moves you hitherto thought belonged exclusively to the night club dance-floor.
The first night opened with Rennie Harris' jaw-dropping Exodus, a piece which tells a story of a physical leaving – with Jamar Roberts a lone figure walking through his people and striving for the light only to be destroyed with a single shot – and an intellectual leave-taking of the old in favour of the new. Here, fancy freestyle hip-hop footwork, of the kind appropriated by B-boys in the 90s – is offset by gorgeously flowing upper body work, the twitching synchronisation of every movable body part into the dance.
One of the company's strengths is the precision of its ensemble work. And in Harris' complex, shifting choreography, the 16 dancers on stage move in and out of unisons with ease, dropping into loping, half-running steps and reaching up in praise, with a constant awareness of where they are in the corps.
A first night duet of the pas de deux from Christopher Wheeldon's After the Rain, shows rare strength and rigour. Linda Celeste Sims and Glenn Allen Sims slow the pace right down, with a slow-motion, grounded falling of dance, deeply romantic and sensual in its fluidity. A perfect understanding of the two dancers' different physicalities and strengths.
After the house-music beats, the second night had more of a Latin groove, kicking off with Ronald K Brown's big, hypnotic exuberance in Open Door. But it was in Paul Taylor's flamenco-infused Piazzolla Caldera that the company set that dance floor alight. Here couples join, part, con-join and misappropriate each other in a piece which reflects all human interaction on a drunken Saturday night of revelry.
It's six years since Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater was last here, and to see dance such as this is a sumptuous treat. Both nights ended, as they all do, with Ailey's own 1960 piece, Revelations. Two sets of dancers bringing power and humour to the stage in subtly different ways but to ultimately, the same effect – getting the audience on its feet in tumultuous acclaim. And with the hope that the company's next visit will be rather quicker.
Seen at Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Tue 18 & Wed 19 October 2016. Run ended.