Ailey Us

by pieces of moments

Last night was so tired I struggled to keep my eyes open fully through a performance of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater as they are on tour and currently encamped in Bostonia.

Thanks to a friend I got to see them for free (it’s a perk of knowing people who work in PR in the arts) and as an additional bonus the seats they gave us were first rate. I wish I had been more alert throughout, however. I did enjoy the program, but in the back of my mind I kept envisioning myself crawling into bed.


I love dance. I always have. I danced ballet until that one fateful day where my dancing days came to an abrupt halt (if you want to know my tragic ballet story, ask me, cause it’s not appearing here). I really enjoy modern dance as well. If you do too, you might want to check out this amazing DVD from The Criterion Collection on Martha Graham. My favorite modern troupe is the Mark Morris Dance Group. It is impossible for them to do wrong in my eyes. His uncanny understanding for physically interpreting the structure and flow of the music to which he choreographs truly sets his work apart from the rest. Alvin Ailey is one of the troupes with which I was the least familiar, so it was a super pleasure to get to know them face to face, so to speak.

The program, for those who care to know was: “The Winter In Lisbon” (1992, music by Dizzy Gillespie & Charles Fishman), “Flowers” (1971, music by Janis Joplin, Blind Faith, Pink Floyd) and “Revelations” (1960, set to traditional spirituals). “The Winter In Lisbon” was alright. A sort of urban scene with, dare I say, really BAD costumes. At least Mark Morris has his long standing friendship and collaboration with the truly fabulous Isaac Mizrahi to assist in costuming couture (and if you haven’t seen Unzipped, you really should). I mean, really, the Ailey company should rein in that 1992 vibe a bit with some 21st century costuming. “Flowers” was basically about a heroine trip and a celebrity of some sort being stalked by the paparazzi. Some high (pun intended) moments:

1) bright-orange-sparkly-really-HUGE-cap-thing-with-bright-green-feather-trim

2) a lot of male dancers in really reflective silver costumes perhaps based on tribal wear from who knows where

3) the flashbulbs of the “paparazzi” that inadvertently shot out into the darkness of the hall and nearly blinded all of us in the audience – repeatedly

The show ender “Revelations” is, as I understood the Ailey company’s most famous and most beloved work. I feel torn over this one. The costuming was by far the best of all the other numbers. The production itself was the most coherent and tight. The curiosity lay in its overtly Tony Award winning-esque moments that induced the audience to clap along and roar – ROAR – with sheer unadulterated pleasure at several key moments of the piece. Seriously. It was less modern dance and more Broadway, which likely counts for its broad appeal. I don’t have a problem with that. If people get excited about the arts and they happen to be witnessing indisputably world class, top notch, dancing from absolutely stunning (jaw-dropping, really) dancers, that’s okay by me. I do wonder at their decision to end every performance with the piece…seems a bit like milking it and making everyone stay to get their dose of modern dance before the big hit number that’s dessert for being good kids. This, of course, is exactly the same situation many American orchestras find themselves in as far as programing – put the “crazy” 20th century pieces first and then reward everyone with yet another performance of Beethoven 5, or 7, or Tchaikovsky 6, etc. So, at least I’m consistent. I dislike the ritual just as much in my own field as I do others.

All in all, however, I really was impressed with the dancing.  I wished that we could have made it to one of the other nights this weekend when the Ailey was going to bust out their “Firebird”, but, look not a gift horse in the mouth, eh?