Thursday, 29 September 2016

Alvin Ailey in Bradford

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre
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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Mixed Bill, Bradford Alhambra, 28 Sept 2016

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre visited Bradford on 27 and 28 Sept 2016 on the latest stage of its international tour which will take it to major cities in the UK as well as Lausanne and Copenhagen on the continent. The company performed four pieces of their repertoire in Bradford: Exodus, Night Creature, After the Rain Pas de Deux and Revelations. I saw the company last night. It was a magnificent performance which was received enthusiastically by the crowd.

Alvin Ailey founded Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre in 1958.  He contributed nearly 80 works to that company before he died in 1989. I was introduced to his work by American Ballet Theatre which danced The River when when ABT visited London in the early 1970s. I have been an admirer ever since. In creating his work Ailey drew on all sorts of dance and musical traditions that flourished in the United States in his time including ballet and modern dance. "What I like" he is reported as saying "is the line and technical range that classical ballet gives to the body. But I still want to project to the audience the expressiveness that only modern dance offers, especially for the inner kinds of things." The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre continues that approach which was reflected in yesterday's programme that included a classical pas de deux by Christopher Wheeldon and hip hop by Rennie Harris as well as two of Ailey's best known works.

The evening began with Exodus which was an explosion of sound and movement. It continued after a short interval with Ailey's Night Creature which he created to the music of Duke Ellington in 1974 for television and launched on stage the following year. A graceful work with swirling couples, jazz rhythms, balletic steps, gorgeous costumes - classic Ailey. The lights dimmed for a few minutes before Sarah Daley and Jamar Roberts performed After the Rain pas de Deux which was my favourite work of the evening. A classical piece with soaring lifts by two beautiful and well matched dancers to Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel. Wheeldon created the work in 2005 for an evening to honour Balanchine but had I been asked to guess the choreographer I would have attributed it to Balanchine himself. The show finished with Revelations  which like the first work is inspired by African-American spirituals. It consists of 10 separate works each created on a different spiritual. I liked them all but Sinner Man danced by Jeroboam Bozeman, Sean Aaaron Carmon and Renaldo Maurice impressed me particularly. Even though the Alhambra was less than full the applause was deafening. The dancers were cheered back for an encore which they delivered exuberantly.

As there is so much dance in the North this Autumn I had planned to see the company only once but I can't possibly leave it at that. They will be at the Lowry very soon where they will perform a different programme. As soon as this review is published I will be on the blower for tickets. The company's next stops will be Nottingham, Cardiff, Salford, Southampton, Canterbury and Edinburgh. Whatever else you see this year you must not miss Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre.

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