Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Program B

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Program B



Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Tour, 2010
Program B

 aileyamongus_3-10
Jamar Roberts in “Among Us”. Photo: Paul Kolnik.

March 9-14, 2010
Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley
Program B
“Among Us” Judith Jamison
“Suite Otis” George Faison
“Revelations” Alvin Ailey
http://www.alvinailey.org/

Dancing on the Outside, Downstage

After fifty years of watching the Ailey Company, it is sad to report  
the good news mixed with remorse.  The beautiful dancers may be  
“acrobats of God” as Martha Graham said of her dancers, but they are  
more acrobats than messengers of the spiritual. What makes that so  
sad, is that they dance to spirituals; their “Revelations,”  
choreographed by Ailey in 1960 ( I saw it first in 1963) is the most  
famous dance  interpretation of that music.

Danced on Program B (there were three programs during the residency)  
by Briana Reed and Jamar Roberts, the song “Fix Me, Jesus,” a  
spiritual that is surely a prayer, drew applause as Ms. Reed performed  
a deep ‘penche-arabesque’…torso low, leg extended behind. It was a  
fine technical feat, as is much of the dancing, but there was an  
absence of feeling tone that emptied the gesture. Similarly, another  
great piece,  “I Wanna Be Ready,” once the most moving of the dances  
in “Revelations,” became a ‘show-off’ exhibition for Amos J. Machanic,  
Jr.

I appreciate that keeping a company alive to its creator’s intentions  
is difficult, almost impossible. We now are applauding Merce  
Cunningham for deciding that his company should not dance his works  
after two years time.  But all Ailey dancers are well trained;
how have they lost the spirit of the work that has for so long, moved  
audiences around the world? too much ballet training? not enough  
dramatic coaching?

There was one section of Judy Jamison’s “Among Us” that did project  
the drama inherent in the work. That was the trio entitled  
“Afterwards” danced by Antonio Douthit, Samuel Lee Roberts and  
Guillermo Asca. These ‘guys’ captured the street scene of ‘hanging  
out,’ by eliminating the high kicking acrobatics and giving us a real  
feel for the scene.  In “Among Us,” a work, by Ms. Jamison is set in  
response to her art on the walls of the set, she develops a series of  
romantic responses that, although charming and well danced, seem not  
to respond to the art at all. Again, the lifts, balances, rolls and  
other technical feats were well done…too well done to draw us in  
emotionally to each unique episode.

“Suite Otis,” choreographed by the Broadway dancer George Faison (who  
also designed the costumes) made us see red.  The costumes were pink  
and red, the lighting was all red. The movements were repetitive high  
kick swings and throw around lifts. The music of Otis Redding (played  
too loud over the system) deserves more love, more from the inside out  
and less screaming ‘in our face” dancing.  Ailey’s company has become  
pop art. Let’s pray that it finds its way back to fine art and the  
spiritual.

San Francisco, CA
Joanna Gewertz Harris, Ph.D, is a dance teacher, historian, reviewer, and lecturer. She taught dance and theater at UCB, UCSC, Cal State Hayward and Sonoma, and is a frequent contributor to scholarly journals and books, most recently to H'Doubler, and Legacy in Dance Education, both from Cambria Press. Beyond Isadora, Bay Area Dancing 1915-1965 , her book documenting Bay Area history (Price $40. + 2.00 shipping) is available from her web site beyondsadora.com and her e mail, joannagharris@comcast.net.