02/21/2013 11:19 am ET

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Returns To Miami (VIDEO, PHOTOS)

This article courtesy of Artburst Miami.

By Catherine Hollingsworth

Following last year’s much-hyped performance under the new direction of Miami native Robert Battle, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is back at the Arsht Center this weekend for their annual appearance in the Magic City.

This year’s company features another Miami local, star dancer Jamar Roberts, along with 30 other dancers.

This year’s program pays respect to the Ailey legacy while exploring new territory. For example, while the inescapable "Revelations" is included in every program, new classics "Grace" and "Minus 16" will also be performed.

"Grace," choreographed by Ronald K. Brown in 1999, is continually hailed as a masterwork that breathes life into the Ailey company. Brown’s nuanced African contemporary style not only shines on the impeccable Ailey dancers, but inevitably you want to get up out of your seat and move.

Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin’s more recent "Minus 16" makes an equal impact. But it’s altogether different, jarring even, like fireworks.

These pieces represent the two sides of Battle’s Ailey: "Grace" points back to the essence of Alvin Ailey’s original voice, a quintessentially black perspective communicated through flawless dance craft. "Minus 16" is more experimental and global.

The company will also perform Jili Kylian’s "Petit Mort," described as a risqué ballet of the battle between the sexes, with a distinctly European decadence.

Battle’s own choreography has also been scattered throughout the different evening programs. "In/Side," a solo piece, evokes one man’s personal struggles. According to Battle, the piece “reminds us that we’re not alone in our feelings of sadness and isolation.” The somewhat lighter "Strange Humors" is an athletic duet.

The program is rounded out by "From Before," choreographed by Jamaican-born Garth Fagan in 1978. Fagan’s Afro-Caribbean style has most notably been seen on Broadway in "The Lion King."

While the company is far from the avant-garde, it is being updated. Battle is discarding many of the dance world conventions that have already fallen away in more experimental theaters.

At the same time, Battle appears to be working out his own artistic voice as it merges with the identity of a larger-than-life company.

If last year’s performances were any indication, Battle’s choreography has not reached the level of the other works in the repertory. But this is a hometown crowd.

And Battle has not forgotten the neighborhood where he grew up. The company will offer a free educational performance of Ailey classics for Dade County public school students.

Here is the schedule of performances, February 21 - 24, at the Arsht Center's Ziff Ballet Opera House:
Thurs. at 8:00 p.m. Petite Mort / Grace / In/Side, Revelations
Fri at 11:00 a.m. Student Performance: Ailey Classics (excerpts), Revelations
Fri. at 8:00 p.m. From Before, Strange Humors / Minus 16 / Revelations
Sat. at 2:00 p.m. Petite Mort / Grace / In/Side, Revelations
Sat. at 8:00 p.m. From Before, Strange Humors / Minus 16 / Revelations
Sun at 2:00 p.m. Petite Mort / Grace / In/Side, Revelations

Tickets start at $25.



Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater