Thursday, March 30, 2000

Ailey show is paradise for purists




BY CAROL NORRIS
Enquirer contributor

        I have just one question for the Alvin Ailey dancers: How does it feel to be adored? At the end of their performance at the Aronoff Center on Tuesday they were treated like rock stars. If we had had our Bics, we would have flicked.

        What brought the 1,600 of us leaping to our feet was Mr. Ailey's Revelations. Quite simply, it's a masterpiece. It reveals the essence of his enormous contribution to dance — and the heart and soul of his enormously talented dancers.

        Through old spirituals such as “Didn't My Lord Deliver Daniel” and “Take Me To the Water” we're set down on emotional ground — a place where many choreographers don't go. In his youth, Sundays were spent in a Texas Baptist Church, and he drew from those formative years to make Revelations.

        From “I Been 'Buked” where dancers' entire bodies radiate heavenly through uplifted chests, to “Wade in the Water,” which brings everyone to the waters of redemption, to “Sinner Man,” a penitential tour de force, we're on a journey to paradise. With “Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham,” we're there, clapping and swaying in a perfect world of rhythm and love. This piece seems to have been divinely guided.

        The ovation went on during a dozen or so curtain calls until something occurred I've never seen before: a dance encore. The company must have had this experience before; in no time the tape was rewound and we were back to “Rocka My Soul.” Although it's done every performance it's still fresh and exuberant; Revelations is their daily prayer.

        Before Mr. Ailey in 1989, he chose Judith Jamison to keep his company going. His favorite muse faithfully maintains the spirit. In this “Millennium Season” tour, she chose primarily Ailey works to showcase. Most date from the 1970s, but only a couple show their age.

        Memoria (1979 with music by Keith Jarrett) looks old and tired with too many ballet references and too many drifting images. Night Creature (1974 to Duke Ellington) is great fun, but the age of its jazz style shows.

        Modern choreographers don't make dances like that anymore — movements done straight out to the audience, lots of unison dancing and steps taken back to their purist form. But then again, everyone could take a lesson from Mr. Ailey, a master at getting to the heart of the matter and delivering to the faithful.

        Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater also performed Wednesday.

       



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