I’m on a high. A full twenty-four hours after seeing the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater perform at the Kennedy Center, I can’t shake the emotions that viewing those bodies in motion have filled me with. I remember commenting to a friend a year ago that I’d always wanted to get up to New York to see them, and when she sent me a text back in November asking if I wanted to see them at the Kennedy Center, I jumped at the chance. I’d only ever watched YouTube clips of a couple performances; this would be my first time experiencing them live.
Last night’s show was lovely. We sat in the orchestra section, second row, and my goodness! That’s the place to be. A few years ago, I saw the Ballet Nacional de Cuba perform Don Quixote at the Kennedy Center, and a group of us were up in the second tier. It’s different up there. From my vantage point in the orchestra last night, I witnessed the expressions on the dancers’ faces change and emote according to choreographic needs. Perspiration glistened on their tauts bodies, giving them a magnificent glow. The power they hold in their bodies, the strength of their legs, the lithe and graceful extensions from the shoulders to the fingertips–breathtaking.
They put on three performances–Chroma, D-Man in the Waters (Part I), and the world renowned, Revelations–each one distinct. Chroma is so stark and beautiful and the use of space magnificent. The music for the dance is quite the contrast, however: ominous, fierce, piercing. D-Man in the Waters (Part I) is playful and joyful in the midst of grief, which gives it a final uplifting sentiment. This piece was a wonderful transition to the last performance of the evening. Revelations expounds on those feelings of grief and steadfastness in the face of adversity. With the use of blues and gospel music, it demonstrates how so many turn to some type of spiritual aspect to lift them out of the deepest of sorrows.
Groundbreaking British choreographer Wayne McGregor's contemporary ballet is full of sensory suprises: sumptuous movement, a driving score by Joby Talbot with orchestrations of songs by The White Stripes, and a luminous set by minimalist architect John Pawson.
In this exhilarating work by Kennedy Center Honoree, McArthur Grant awardee and Tony Award-winner Bill T. Jones (Fela!, Spring Awakening), rigorous formalism and musicality embody resilience and triumph over loss. The piece captures the infectious energy, innocence and will to survive of a beleaguered generation, and though it deals with sorrow, it maintains a defiantly celebratory tone.
Alvin Ailey said that one of America’s richest treasures was the cultural heritage of the African-American – ”sometimes sorrowful, sometimes jubilant, but always hopeful.” This enduring classic is a tribute to that heritage and to Ailey’s genius. Using African-American traditional spirituals, this suite fervently explores the places of deepest grief and holiest joy in the soul.
I guarantee that this will not be the last time that I see the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater perform live. My soul needs it.
Next on the list: Seeing Misty Copeland perform with the American Ballet Theatre.