ALVIN AILEY DANCE THEATRE
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2014 @ 2PM
One of Atlanta’s most eagerly-awaited annual traditions is the return of the world’s most popular dance company to the fabulous Fox Theatre. See this season’s hottest new works plus returning repertory favorites including (at all performances) the beloved Revelations, which continues to move audiences around the world with its powerful storytelling and soul-stirring music.
Alvin Ailey’s Night Creature is a bubbly champagne cocktail of a dance, a perfect fusion of Ailey’s buoyant choreography and Duke Ellington’s sparkling music. At once wistful and sassy, it beckons viewers into a nocturnal world populated by jazz babies and night owls. Ellington said that “night creatures, unlike stars, do not come OUT at night– they come ON, each thinking that, before the night is out, he or she will be the star.” This large ensemble work is full of such stars — strutting, leaping and slinking through a variety of dance idioms as they flaunt and flirt with each other and the audience. They hold their hands like paws, as if they’re cats on the prowl, then slide seamlessly into balletic allegro jumps, Martha Graham-like contractions and Lester Horton layouts. It’s the definitive dance homage to the exuberance of The Duke’s sophisticated symphonic work.
Pas de Duke
Pas de Duke is Alvin Ailey’s spirited modern dance translation of a classical pas de deux, originally created in 1976 as a showcase for Judith Jamison and Mikhail Baryshnikov. She was a reigning star of modern dance; he was one of the world’s most famous ballet dancers, having defected from the Soviet Union two years earlier. Ailey made brilliant use of the dancers’ physical and stylistic differences, crafting an elegant, flirtatious work that showed off their exuberance and virtuosity as they engaged in a playful game of one-upmanship. The work is comprised of five solos and duets that require extraordinary technical facility, flawless timing, and strong acting skills. Since its premiere nearly 40 years ago, it has been performed by generations of dancers who have each put their own unique twist on the choreography, and it has stood the test of time in part for how perfectly it captures the timeless sophistication of Duke Ellington’s jazz music. The New York Times has praised it as “one of those special dances that lives in new ways with each new set of performers.”
By turns muscular and lyrical, The River is a sweeping full-company work that suggests tumbling rapids and meandering streams on a journey to the sea. Ailey’s allegory of birth, life and rebirth abounds with water references, from the spinning “Vortex” solo to the romantic “Lake” duet, and from the powerful “Falls” quartet to the joyful “Giggling Rapids.” The choreography demonstrates Ailey’s admiration for classical ballet, but retains the modern and jazz influences found in all his work. “The River shows Mr. Ailey at his inventive best,” declared The New York Times. The grandeur of the dancing is matched by the music, which was Duke Ellington’s first symphonic score written for dance. Ailey and Ellington collaborated closely on the piece. This new production has been restaged by Associate Artistic Director Masazumi Chaya, the foremost living expert on Ailey’s repertory. He believes that the ballet feels fresh each time around because “each audience member can make a story of their own from The River. Alvin was very clever; he created something that can be applied to one’s entire life — birth, a relationship with a child, or even one’s impression of a flower. It is what the audience makes of it. It is what it means to the individual.”
Using African-American spirituals, song-sermons, gospel songs and holy blues, Alvin Ailey’s Revelations fervently explores the places of deepest grief and holiest joy in the soul. More than just a popular dance work, it has become a cultural treasure, beloved by generations of fans. SeeingRevelations for the first time or the hundredth can be a transcendent experience, with audiences cheering, singing along and dancing in their seats from the opening notes of the plaintive “I Been ’Buked” to the rousing “Wade in the Water” and the triumphant finale, “Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham.” Ailey said that one of America’s richest treasures was the African-American cultural heritage —“sometimes sorrowful, sometimes jubilant, but always hopeful.” This enduring classic is a tribute to that tradition, born out of the choreographer’s “blood memories” of his childhood in rural Texas and the Baptist Church. But since its premiere in 1960, the ballet has been performed continuously around the globe, transcending barriers of faith and nationality, and appealing to universal emotions, making it the most widely-seen modern dance work in the world.