It was 1998 and four young, vivacious women embarked on an exciting adventure in the Big Apple. While in NYC, all vowed to hit up all the expected spots — some popularized and trendy “it” spots at the time like Justin’s on West 21st, Nell’s and Metropolitan. Other bonafied bucket list attractions included dining at B. Smith’s restaurant and of course, experiencing the world-renown cultural phenomenon Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. We were moved, inspired, and awed by Ailey!
Fast-forward to 2016, and the Alvin Ailey experience is still nothing short of spectacular. The Society of Performing Arts takes pride in bringing “world-class” art and culture to Houston and delivered just that for three exclusive performances this past weekend. Select pieces from the dance company’s repertory titillated the sold-out crowd: Open Door (2015), Vespers (1986-1987), The Hunt (2001) and the signature Revelations (1960).
The show opened with the spirited and vibrant Open Door, choregraphed by Ronald K. Brown in 2015. The audience flows with this lively duet in perfect syncopation with the samba-like music of Luis Demetrio. As the other dancers join in — the undeniable and masterful artistry of Brown is clear as each movement and motion emodies the rich heritage that both African-Americans and Latinos bestow, grounded in music and dance. Fast-paced and dynamic, the dancers engage the audience with each rhythmic step. This piece set a tone of intensity for the remainder of the afternoon.
Vespers, a piece from the 1980s, is still as alluring as when it premiered in 1987. With a throbbing drum baseline in the background and minimal stage lighting, the combination of sharp, modern dance movements with the fluid “traditional” ballet arabesques and pirouettes were the perfect juxtaposition to the dramatic music.
The Hunt, performed by an all-male sextet, truly delivered. Choregraphed by the company’s latest artistic director Robert Battle, the dance was both powerful and jarring. The piece depicted a warrior-type storyline, with bare-chested men clad in authentic war skirts. The constant tug-of-war between dominance and submission amongst the dancers engaged audiences until the final drum thud of Les Tambours du Bronx’s score.
The show’s crescendo was Ailey’s critically-acclaimed piece Revelations – which is comprised of three parts: Pilgrim of Sorrow, Take Me To The Water, and Move, Members, Move. Ailey, who has drawn inspiration from his Texas roots to create this infamous piece, weaves the fabric of blues and gospel into every fluid move. The dancers tell a moving story reminiscent of the slavery era, where African-Americans drew strength and connection from the spiritual realm. The sheer passion and emotion alone expressed through the choreography was soul-stirring. Jeroboam Bozeman, a featured performer in Sinner Man/Move, Members, Move channels his own story of adversity and triumph as he performs, and provides Examiner readers a bit of wisdom on how he realized his dream of dancing with Ailey’s company:
“Anything you want to achieve is possible, but it requires patience and hard work. Use criticism and rejection as a motivation tool to continue to follow your dreams. Success doesn’t come overnight and you should seek to constantly grow.”
Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham ended the show on a celebratory note – as the dancers visually depicted the artistic brilliance of the late Alvin Ailey.
This series of performances is one of the last stops on the 2016 Alvin Ailey North American Tour, with scheduled shows this month in Baltimore, MD, Cleveland, OH and a final show in Newark, NJ at the beginning of May. Please visit http://alvinailey.org for more information.