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Home > Dance Events Review

Alvin Ailey Brings It!

I had the pleasure of getting out this past Wednesday night, to see the one and only ‘Alvin Ailey Dance Company’ perform. The performance was at the Fred Kavli Theatre located in the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza in beautiful Thousand Oaks, California. I had seen them before so I was wondering what to expect this time around. I knew it would be great; this company is one of the most renowned companies in the dance community today. The production was made possible by a grant from The Ford Foundation and with public funds from the National Endowment for the Arts. It’s great to see a system working to keep the arts alive.

I entered the theatre, which was not only gorgeous, but huge! I sat in the high balcony far above the stage. I almost got dizzy it was so high! Great view though and center seats. The audience brimmed with excitement for the show, very special crowd; it was nice to be amongst them. Anyhow, I was warned that the first piece would run 17 minutes so it would not be wise to get up at that point since the doors are locked while they’re on. I sat there curiously with my good friend, and we waited for the lights to dim. As they went down the audience began to applaud in anticipation.


Alvin Ailey Dance Company

The curtains opened and exposed the first piece ‘Night Creature’. It was a portion of the famous ‘Ailey Celebrates Ellington’ first presented in 1974. At this point I realized the show was a special encore, from the ‘best of’ Ailey and a couple choice choreographers…which I’ll get into later. The entire company was in this piece; all 20 dancers graced the stage with this incredibly rich and classical jazz choreography. This wasn’t the usual jazz we’re used to seeing. It was a unique interpretation straight from the heart of Ailey. It seemed so innovative to have been created back in 1974! I had yet to be born let alone dance! So it was an honor to see this piece of history being recreated. A quote was put in the program which really encompassed the piece:

    “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.” –Duke Ellington


One of the company’s long time stars, Renee Robinson, danced the lead part with grace. It seemed she had seniority and a certain amount of respect surrounding her dancing that role. The choreography was very full and rich with imagination. The classical Duke Ellington jazz was translated into movement with flair. The company danced with precision and joy. This piece encompassed not only this unique jazz translation with a southern feel; it also demonstrated beautiful ballet technique and some interesting partnering as well! One section of the dance was a thick ballet allegro. Ballet was a strong foundation throughout the dance. There were several high and holding leg extensions as well as arabesque and penché positions. All were executed so simply and freshly. Very gorgeous and I was surprised that 17 minutes had passed when it ended!

The second piece was the innovative piece of the night. ‘Caught’ was choreographed by David Parsons and first performed by his company of course. One of his former dancers Clifton Brown, who is now in Ailey’s company, brought this 1982 piece to life! There is no way to express the delight and the shock value of this piece! That it was created in 1982 is beyond me, how did I miss this one in all my years of dance studies?! The lighting design is what made the piece what it is, equally with the dancer’s strong jumping ability and position precision. The piece included one man, Clifton, and a master strobe light design that was timed immaculately with the choreography. This timing gave the audience an illusion of everlasting suspension. It was amazing to say the least. The dancer looked as though he was a suspended photo shot, moving perfectly around the stage in equal distribution and pattern. He would strike the exact same air position in a stage pattern so it appeared as if he never hit the ground. He seems so calm and as though he…was not real! I could hear the audience gasp continuously, and they couldn’t help clapping while he was in mid performance. It deservingly received a standing ovation. What a piece.


Revelations

The night ended with a newer piece called ‘Ife/My Heart’ from 2005, and the classic ‘Revelations’ that Alvin Ailey Dance Company has become synonymous with. The newer piece, choreographed by Ronald Brown, mixed African dance technique with an old jazz feel inside the foundation of ballet. This piece was a cultural tribute piece as most of Ailey’s works are, so it fit into the compilation perfectly. It tells an abstract story of the Southern church, African culture and jazz. It came alive and open to interpretation.

The last piece, Revelations, was performed with as much fervor as the first time I saw it. The company is at the height of harmony. The story it brings is a piece of history in and out of dance. The patterns that ‘Take Me To The Water’ and ‘Move, Members, Move’ brought, with the props and costume design, continued to be visual delights.

The entire compilation was a gift to the audience; everyone enjoyed it immensely being that they were so enthusiastic throughout the entire show. It brought a spirit and energy to the performance. I recommend this dance company to any dance enthusiast, seasoned or not! It’s not a company to miss, they are part of the landscape of our dance history!







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