More than a touch of Latin flair filled two-thirds of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s 2nd Programme in their 2016 Sadler’s Wells residency.
Ronald K. Brown’s brilliant Open Door was first up. From a plaintive little jazz piano track the music slowly climaxed into a full-blown Afro-Latin freak-out that had the dancers spinning and seamlessly reeling out their laconic swing. Their sense of rhythm and understanding of the music was extraordinary, the feeling of joy they exuded was palpable. This was a truly wonderful celebration of the art of dancing.
Piazzolla Caldera is choreographed by American legend Paul Taylor and was first performed by Ailey’s Company in 2015. While they’re clearly still settling in to its intriguing mix of tango with contemporary dance this was still a great watch. The fluid elegance of tango wasn’t always present but was replaced by an appealing sleaziness that peaked in the superb drunken fight/love match between Daniel Harder and Michael Francis McBride. That was swiftly followed by a duet of remarkable lifts by Jamar Roberts and Rachael McLaren, all of which was bookended by a dazzling array of spins and leaps from the rest of the company. Again, the physical reading of Piazzolla’s music was impeccable.
As is the Ailey’s dancers’ lot, their evening (as does every Ailey evening apparently) finished with the beyond-iconic Revelations. It was full of great performances; in her Fix Me, Jesus duet with Collin Heyward, Ghrai DeVore showed formidable control in her extensions and attitudes, Vernard J. Gilmore did likewise in his I Wanna Be Ready solo and Jeroboam Bozeman, Jermaine Terry and Chalvar Monteiro were simply thrilling in the Sinner Man segment.
Whisper it quietly, though, I personally found Revelations didn’t touch me in the same way Open Door and Piazzolla Caldera had. Despite its tremendous historical importance, the Praise-The-Lord soundtrack left me cold and the showpiece finale just didn’t get the blood pumping. Everyone else in the theatre went crazy however.
If you can, go watch Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater while they’re on this extensive UK tour (which includes places such as Birmingham, Plymouth, Cardiff, Edinburgh and more) – they’re a company that will fill you with happiness. They’re performing three different programmes at Sadler’s Wells until 17 September 2016 before embarking on the rest of their UK tour. For a full list of venues and dates see AlvinAiley.org