Dance Evaluation: Ailey Program Moves to Duke Ellington Works

December 18th, 2013

Paul Kolnik

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater “The River” was amongst operates to Duke Ellington tunes that the organization danced at Town Centre.

The news, very good and not-so-good, of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s current year at Metropolis Heart has appear in imports and premieres, but on Friday the business turned to a program solely of performs by its founder. Aside from “Revelations,” the items had been all to songs by Duke Ellington (recorded, alas). Curiously, all that jazz arrived with a lot of ballet.

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When Ellington chafed at the label “jazz,” he chafed at associations that restrict, the prejudice guiding the skepticism that greeted several of his much more massive-scale compositions. Possibly it was to counter that variety of prejudice that Ailey set so much ballet into “Night Creature” (1974). The score is jazz for symphonic orchestra, and when the dancers do petit allegro — modest, fast ballet footwork — to a galloping part, it suits good.

But Ailey’s use of ballet is mainly boilerplate. “Night Creature” lives in its bouncing hips. To the opening of the motion Ellington titled “Stalking Monster,” while the piano insinuates simultaneously in its maximum and most affordable registers, these hips advance right at the audience, hooked up to a amazing and inexorable military led by the queen of the night time creatures. On Friday, the queen was Alicia Graf Mack, marvelously regal but probably a tiny as well great: The jokes in this happy function are about women dominating guys.

Too often, the ballet in these Ailey performs suggests no far more than “We can do this, as well.” The existing Ailey dancers surely can, however they really don’t constantly look at their very best in these parts.

In “Pas de Duke,” a gala-type pas de deux that Ailey produced for Judith Jamison and Mikhail Baryshnikov in 1976, Linda Celeste Sims seemed like she could do anything at all. She had the knife-sharp technique to justify her attractive-challenging mindset and the mindset to make the knife flash. Her rhythmic exactitude, hitting all of Ellington’s accents, produced the strongest scenario for Ailey’s faithful musicality.

“Pas de Duke” mixes bravura ballet steps with jazz and contemporary-dance approach, and the star-motor vehicle structure works as a performative typical denominator amid the idioms. Antonio Douthit-Boyd’s entrance, strutting on in restricted white satin, was his very best, most wonderful moment. In overhead extensions his legs could have poked out eyes in the balcony, but his turns had a slight wobble, a betrayal of pressure that undercut the majesty of his smile.

However “The River,” a collaborative fee for American Ballet Theater in 1970, is neither prime-shelf Ellington nor leading-shelf Ailey, the suite’s 8 sections of shifting shade and mood supply many openings for dancers. In the “Giggling Rapids” segment, Kirven Douthit-Boyd had effervescent enjoyable with exaggerated ballet thrives. The rest of the work’s ballet humor — jiving cygnets, kick strains that float like barges — is duller, and the goofiness of the “Riba” area can be uncomfortable. (With the midriff-baring Michael Francis McBride, it was.)

Only in the ultimate “Twin Cities” section did Ms. Mack recommend — just by currently being herself, an reliable ballerina — how ballet may express anything a lot more urgent and first.

Then arrived “Revelations” (1960), in which no stage is rote and each is needed. Ailey’s solitary masterpiece, with its “Wade in the Drinking water ” baptism, it is the company’s accurate Mississippi, and following to it, “The River” is just yet another stream.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performs via Jan. five at Town Centre, 131 West 55th Road, Manhattan 212-581-1212, nycitycenter.org.

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