Alvin Ailey Review

Daisy Friedman, Design Editor

The Alvin Ailey Dance Company, known as Ailey II is a modern dance company based out of Manhattan, New York. The founder, Mr. Alvin Ailey was an African-American choreographer to whom we accredit the creation of the ‘Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.’ He made modern dance a more popular dance form, while simultaneously infusing elements of African American cultural dances.

This weekend, Ailey II brought an intoxicating energy to the Orpheum theater, infecting all who were lucky enough to attend. Stepping into the theater, I noticed a very different demographic than those who generally attend Orpheum shows. There were rows of young African American children and all I could think was “wow, what incredible role models these dancers are to these young people.” In a performing arts industry that predominantly hires white people and unfairly places European features as the epitome of beauty, these twelve dancers of color were a welcome change.

I am not well versed in the world of dance performances. I am accustomed to words in the types of storytelling I am accustomed to, but I soon realized that words were unnecessary when telling an effective story. The show was split up into three “acts,” with an intermission in between. Each section told a completely different story through the music and dance styles. The first one, titled ‘Road to One,’ was an eclectic piece about how we are all special, intricate parts to one large whole. The next one, titled ‘Touch & Agree,’ revolved around the relationships and the connections we form with people and the final one, titled ‘Revelations’ was a soulful series of pieces about different elements of the Christian religion, with spiritual music behind it. The one thing they all had in common was the phenomenal amount of talent, control and stage presence from each one of the dancers. Their bodies looked as though Michelangelo had carved them out of stone himself.

The first section was the one that held my attention the least. The technique of the dancers was superb, but I did not feel like the music matched the emotion that the dancers were giving off. There was a very interesting piece in that section that seemed to captivate the power struggle between two three women and how they learned that in the end, it was more beneficial to life each other up than to tear them down. The thing I enjoyed most about that section was because it felt so vague to me, I could make up any story I wanted about the characters’ journeys in the dances. This section did not feel as though it had as cohesive of a theme as the other two did, but it felt the most energetic.

The next section was outlined with a simple set, so the dancers movements could be the thing to speak volumes. The first piece ‘Waiting’ performed by Kyle H. Martin and Marcel Wilson Jr. was about the evolution of a relationship through the trials and tribulations. The level of poise and sharpness these dancers had, it really did seem like they were telling a love story with their bodies. The rest of the dances were building upon the common theme of freedom of self expression. The music reminded me a lot like that of a runway show. Each dancer put their heart and soul into “werking” it and truly left it all out on the dancefloor.

The final section, ‘Revelations’ was a work of Alvin Ailey’s in 1960. Each piece was centered around a different aspect of religion like Hell, sin and the coming of the Lord. ‘I Want to Be Ready,’ performed by Carl Ponce Cubero, was a beautifully emotive modern piece about being ready for Jesus. This section had a very defined story arch, which made it more enticing and easier to follow. The first part outlined the fear and overwhelming energy that sometimes is expressed with religion, but quickly moves into the joyous songs and hymns of rejoice, which is why people continue to fall in love with spirituality. Overall, Ailey II was a moving performance that showed me a new, bold side of dancing that has not been popularized.