The Alvin Ailey American Dance Company

When I saw that the Alvin Ailey American Dance Company was going to be performing new works by Mauro Bigonzetti and Kyle Abraham this year, my reaction was something along the lines of, “Yes, please!” And it happened that the only performance of these pieces was on Saturday, which meant I could actually go and not worry about being wiped out from work or wiped out at work the next day. The Bigonzetti wasn’t all that I hoped that it would be, but the Abraham more than made up for it and this evening’s show ended with a particularly strong performance of Ailey’s “Revelations,” so I’m more than happy with the show.

The program began with Bigonzetti’s “Deep.” Set to the music of Ibeyi, a French-Cuban duo who sing in English and Yoruba, I felt that the choreography often came across almost more as a rough-draft of a music video. (In fact, the guy sitting next to me ended up buying a few of the tracks during intermission.) It was as though there were one or two songs that really inspired him to make something meaningful and then the rest was all filler because he felt like sticking with the same album rather than trying build something coherent using what he already had as a starting point. There were a few moments that did connect with me, though: when the full company first came on stage during “River” and then the gorgeous duet set to “Think of You.” (At least, I think that’s which one it was.) If someone were to tell me that there was something more to the work that managed to go over my head then I’d not be terribly surprised but I don’t really suspect that to be the case.

Abraham’s piece, “Untitled America,” is a look at how the prison system affects Black American individuals and those who rely on them. The sound design was incredibly effective: each scene in the work at least began with a recorded interview with former inmates and, in some cases, those close to them. In some segments, the interviews were interwoven into the rhythms of the music. This provided a pretty clear framework for interpreting the choreography, which was strong and poignant. Some of the movement phrases, and perhaps an entire scene, that revolved around Black people being singled out for arrest seemed to be recycled from Abraham’s earlier work, “Pavement.” Whereas that earlier work brought me to tears, I think that “Untitled America” was more cerebral: it did a good job of getting me thinking about the short- and long-term impacts of incarceration on individuals and those who care about them or rely on them. It did provoke a great deal of sympathy from me, particularly one segment that expressed how one former inmates children ended up growing up without the ability to form strong, trusting attachments and another that discussed how a woman never felt her mother’s love until they were locked up together, but I found that the choreography and the presentation of the interviews worked more together to engage my understanding of the situation than my feelings about it.

The evening ended, of course, with Alvin Ailey’s “Revelations,” the only piece of choreography that I know of that has its own endowment for touring. I think that this may have been the best performance of it that I’ve seen so far. I know that I’ve never seen such a sharp performance of “Sinner Man” and I think that the timing and adherence to blocking on all of the bits with the full ensemble were about as good as could be. Overall, this was a great show.

Don’t forget to check out the Atlanta Classical Music Calendar!

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