If you have the chance to view this show, you simply must!
For anyone who may have failed to look up or notice their surroundings while driving through Los Angeles over the past few weeks, I have an announcement to make. The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has come to town. If you've never had the chance to experience this particular dance company, there is no time like the present to discover what I already know: There is nothing like it.
I've had the privilege of seeing the company perform a few times in my life. While an undergraduate at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and again during a week-long stint in Seattle, I squealed and wiggled my way through three different performances, each one better then the last. And yes, the performances varied from night to night. And in case you're wondering, the same is true this time.
As an undergraduate I sat in my seat amazed by the physical display of black people performing ballet and then seamlessly shifting from hip hop to modern to jazz and finally African styles. I couldn't believe the mastery or the reach of the mix of different influences. I was delighted, inspired and I wanted to dance! As a young adult viewing the Seattle performances, I felt a renewed fire inside of me imploring me ever more to dance. And though I'd been performing dance through out my life, I somehow regarded it differently, more importantly. And finally with this new installation of performances by Ailey's company, my joy is made complete.
Wednesday night's opening at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion in downtown LA was my best experience to date.
The night was divided into three performances, with an intermission separating each. The first, entitled "Grace," was commissioned in 1999 at the invite of Judith Jamison, and choreographed by Ronald K Brown and was my favorite of the night. The piece features a beautiful fusion of Senegalese (love), hip hop and jazz dance styles and is presented in a smorgasbord of prayer, what I can only describe as a dance party, and finally prayer to wrap it up. "Grace" features the musical likes of Duke Ellington's "Come Sunday," "Bless It" by Paul Johnson, "Shakara" by Fela Kuti and an additional offering of "Come Sunday" performed by Jennifer Holliday.
The second act, an offering entitled "Minus 16," choreographed by Ohad Naharin (1999) and restaged by Danielle Agami, was rightfully described by artistic airector Lester Horn as, "You'll have a good time. Can't tell you much about it or he [Ohad] will get mad at me." I'll take my cue from Lester. Though I will say, it was delightful and left the audience, both young and old, gleefully thrilled and springing to our feet for the first standing ovation of the evening.
The third and final piece, "Revelations," choreographed by founder Alvin Ailey, is a traditional number following each performance as its crown. The Music's "I Been Buked" arranged by Hal Johnson, "Didn't My Lord Deliver Daniel" arranged by James Miller, "Fix Me Jesus" arranged by Hall Johnson, and "Take Me To The Water," adapted and arranged by Howard A. Roberts is a traditional take on a slave narrative voiced through negro spirituals that is both timeless, and breathtaking.
While Hollywood is largely known as a film, television and music-based mecca, from time to time a dollop of dance theater, creating a musical furlough, is not only welcome but timely and necessary. If you haven't already bought your tickets, shame on you! As for me, call Debbie Allen, I'm going to class!