Last night was the third night of Alvin Ailey’s week-long performance at Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) for the 50th anniversary of the modern dance company. In celebration of the milestone, two programs are being performed intermittently – “Classic Ailey” and “Best of.”
And last night was “Best of” for me. While I ultimately enjoyed the show, I’m not sure the title totally fits. The opening piece, “The Golden Section” was choreographed by Twyla Tharp (who has her own company performing at the American Ballet this week). With music by David Byrne, the piece was roller disco meets modern dance and there were plenty of gold stockings, footwear, and costumes to go along with the title. It was fun to watch, with isolated gyrating hips and leaps a plenty. But I wanted more.
Next was “Unfold,” a duet of fluid, extended movement interspersed with awkward jutting appendages. Bodies flopped on the floor, always reaching for one another, and ultimately falling out of reach all over again. It seemed like a direct response to the ballet’s pas de deux, where even troubled lovers maintain their beauty and poise with each step. This was a more earnest representation of the frustrations of relationships, combining the fluidity and flutter of romance with the awkwardness of each partner’s quirks.
“The groove to Nobody’s Business” took place in a subway station, waiting for the next train. A year-old piece, it was fun and entertaining, with more outright theatrics than I’m used to from Alvin Ailey. I found myself more enjoying the characters than the choreography, and by the end was ready for the final piece (which Alvin Ailey performs at the end of every program), “Revelations.”
Always emotionally driven, in “Revelations,” Ailey drew upon his “blood roots” for his most-seen piece of choreography. The gospel music the dancers move to is just as important as their movement, and even arguably the driving force behind Ailey’s choreography. Whether you know the stories of the deep South personally or not, you can’t help but be moved by this powerful piece, which ends in a fury of faithful churchgoers, clapping, stomping, and waving their fans to the joyful gospel sounds of the southern church. Their communal energy is shared with the audience as viewers find themselves clapping along to the final reprise.
In the end, “Unfold” and “Revelations” could certainly be dubbed “Best of,” but I was left wondering if I may have enjoyed the “Classic Ailey” a bit more. Either way the chance to see “Revelations” is always a joy.