Photo: Rachel Mclaren by Andrew Eccles
It’s opening night at The Fox Theatre for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s production and I can’t help but to pinch myself to see if it’s real. I’m sitting in the audience antsy… waiting to view a production of a dance company that’s been around since the late 50’s.
Since moving to Atlanta in 2008, I’ve heard ravishing reviews about the production and vowed to add it to my “Must Do Before 40” list. I can confidently cross it off my list, but at the same time add it to my “Do Every Year” list that I just created after this experience.
Miraculous performance after miraculous performance… And as much as I pride myself of not being envious of others tonight was an exception. While I am applauding each and every dancer and individual that had their hand in the production’s design, I sit with a little envy of the dancers and their ability to perform flawlessly in front of thousands. One day I hope to be able to perform/speak in front of a crowd this size and pull it off so graciously.
Now I wish that cameras were allowed so that I could’ve captured some candid shots, but of course I understand why they are prohibited. Who would want to distract them in the midst of performing? Definitely not I!
MY FAVORITES WERE…
While all the performances and performers were truly amazing, three of my favorites were:
No Longer Silent
Choreography: Robert Battle Music: Erwin Schulhoff
No Longer Silent is a large ensemble work featuring the imaginative interplay of four groups of dancers evoking a complex and mysterious ritual to Erwin Schulhoff’s percussive score “Ogelala.” Originally created in 2007 for The Juilliard School, Robert Battle’s alma mater, it was part of a concert of choreography that brought to life long-forgotten scores by composers whose work the Nazis had banned. Powerful phrases stir the imagination with images of flight and fatigue, chaos and unity, and collectivity and individualism as dancers travel in military rows. Created between 1922-1924, the music tells the story of a pre-Columbian Mexican warrior and its ever-shifting mechanical cadence is the backdrop against which the dancers, dressed in all black, dramatically build to the work’s piercing conclusion. Lamentably, the composer was denied employment after the Germans occupied Czechoslovakia and, after being prevented from emigrating, died of tuberculosis in the Wülzburg concentration camp in 1942.
Choreography by Alvin Ailey Music: Donny Hathaway, Nina Simone
Love Songs, a three-part technical and dramatic tour-de-force originally created for the legendary Dudley Williams, is often viewed as the male counterpart to Cry, the famous woman’s solo that Mr. Ailey originally choreographed for his muse, Judith Jamison. The suite opens with Donny Hathaway’s tender “A Song For You,” followed by Nina Simone’s rendition of “A Field of Poppies,” an anti-narcotics song in which the audience witnesses the man’s descent into self-destruction, and closes with Hathaway singing “He Ain’t Heavy” as the dancer travels around the stage bearing an imaginary load with resolve. The work gives the soloist a unique opportunity to display both the power and gentleness of the male dancer while digging deep into all the aspects of his relationships – with himself, his fellow man, his brother.
Choreography by Alvin Ailey Music: Various Artists
Using African-American spirituals, song-sermons, gospel songs and holy blues, Alvin Ailey’s Revelations fervently explores the places of deepest grief and holiest joy in the soul. More than just a popular dance work, it has become a cultural treasure, beloved by generations of fans. Seeing Revelations for the first time or the hundredth can be a transcendent experience, with audiences cheering, singing along and dancing in their seats from the opening notes of the plaintive “I Been ’Buked” to the rousing “Wade in the Water” and the triumphant finale, “Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham.”
Ailey said that one of America’s richest treasures was the African-American cultural heritage —“sometimes sorrowful, sometimes jubilant, but always hopeful.” This enduring classic is a tribute to that tradition, born out of the choreographer’s “blood memories” of his childhood in rural Texas and the Baptist Church. But since its premiere in 1960, the ballet has been performed continuously around the globe, transcending barriers of faith and nationality, and appealing to universal emotions, making it the most widely-seen modern dance work in the world.
The Company, recognized as a vital “American Cultural Ambassador” by U.S. Congressional resolution, is visiting Atlanta as part of a 20-city North American Tour. The North American tour began at the start of Black History Month, and Ailey’s pioneering legacy of uplifting, uniting, and celebrating the human spirit lives on through the extraordinary performances.
Tonight’s opening was just one of the weekend long engagements set for Atlanta so if you missed it you still have a chance to check out the production on the remaining dates listed below. Trust me you don’t want to miss it!
2015-2016 Atlanta Programs
ATLANTA, GA FOX THEATRE
Thursday, 2/11@ 8:00pm Open Door, Cry / Awakening / Revelations
Friday, 2/12@ 8:00pm Exodus / Piazzolla Caldera / Revelations
Saturday, 2/13@ 2:00pm Open Door, Cry / Awakening / Revelations
Saturday, 2/13@ 8:00pm Exodus / No Longer Silent / Revelations
Sunday, 2/14@ 3:00pm Open Door, Cry / Awakening / Revelations