Entertainment » Theatre

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre @ The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

by Kelly May
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday Feb 5, 2020
A promotional photo for the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre
A promotional photo for the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre  

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre is continuing its annual Kennedy Center engagement with seven performances on the Opera House stage between February 4th to 9th. Led by Artistic Director Robert Battle, Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre is showcasing three D.C. premieres, two new productions, two company premieres, and returning favorites such as Alvin Ailey's "Revelations." Each evening four out of seven pieces are performed. On the evening of February 4th, the performance consisted of "Ounce of Faith" excerpt by Darrell Grand Moultrie, "A Case of You" by Judith Jamison, "Ode" by Jamar Roberts, and "Revelations" by Alvin Ailey.

Opening with "Ounce of Faith," this DC premiere was an uplifting beginning and tells the story of the positive impact of a teacher's influence on a young child. With the central theme of "when someone has an ounce of faith in you, it can change the course of your life," twelve dancers took the stage and showcased the strengths of the Alvin Ailey dance troupe. With a mix of jazz standards, original music, and spoken word, the dancers easily transitioned from slow fluidity to rapid sharp movements as the piece needed. Both strength and skill are needed to execute this piece well, and the dance troupe made it seem organic and effortless.

Belen Indhira Pereyra and Yazzmeen Laidler in "Ounce of Faith." Photo by Paul Kolnik  

Returning work "A Case of You," by Judith Jamison, was the second piece performed. Dancing to Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You" the piece embodies the line from the song, "I could drink a case of you." With only two dancers, the emotional and sensual duet had a lovely flow. With the female dancer in a red dress and the male dancer in pants and a collared shirt, the couple looked like they could have just walked off the street after an evening out together. The simple costuming added additional intimacy and helped the audience see themselves and connect even more to this dance about relationships.

The third performance "Ode" by Jamar Roberts was the second DC premiere for the evening. A more serious piece, "Ode" invited the viewer into life's fragility and the hard toll of growing gun violence in our society. The piece took the audience away from the statistics about guns and focused on the heart instead. The six male dancers did a wonderful job from showing the personal impact when dancing alone to the community impact when they danced together.

The evening closed with Alvin Ailey's best-known work, "Revelations." Though it premiered for the first time in 1960, "Revelations" still feels vibrant, fresh, and new. There is a reason that this work has been performed at two inaugurations, the 1968 Olympics, and in 71 countries. Intertwining gospel, spirituals, and blues music, it looks at the African-American experience - from grief to the holiest joy.

"Revelations" showcases the well-rounded strengths of the dance troupe and what modern dance can accomplish. Every piece was visually stunning and engaging. The audience felt like they were a part of each scene, so it was not surprising when many began clapping to the music at times. The audience may not have always clapped in perfect rhythm to the gospel and blues music, but the community participation added even more texture and emotion to an already beautiful piece.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre's modern dance performances continue to be an experience well worth having, and the Kennedy Center, with its long history with Alvin Ailey, makes it a wonderful place to have this experience.

The Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre continues through February 9 at the Kennedy Center, 2700 F St., NW, Washington, D.C. For more information, visit the Kennedy Center website.

For more on the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre, visit the company's website.

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