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Subject: "Alvin Ailey for beginners..." Archived thread - Read only
 
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Jane S

20-06-02, 04:27 PM (GMT)
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"Alvin Ailey for beginners..."
 
  

...which includes me, as I've seen the company exactly twice, on its last visit to
London in 1992. Before that, their last London season was in the early 1970s, so
I guess there are lots of others in the same boat. ( People who live in Bradford
have been luckier.)

(This is a repost of what I wrote before the company's cancelled visit last September.)

Who was Alvin Ailey?

He was an American dancer and choreographer, born in 1931. He trained with
some of the greats of modern dance - Lester Horton, Martha Graham, Charles
Weidman - and danced in Lester Horton's company, taking over the direction
after Horton's death. He formed his own company in 1958 and directed it and
choreographed for it until his death in 1989. (His Night Creature was in ENB's
repertoire for a time.)

So who runs the company now?

Judith Jamison, who joined the company in 1965 and rose to become one of its
leading dancers. Ailey made one of his most famous solos, Cry, for her. She
now does her own choreography as well as directing, and the Sadler's Wells
season includes her Divining.

What's special about the company?

It's a predominantly, but not exclusively, black company - Ailey wanted to
celebrate black culture, but as a part of American multicultural richness. (Its full
name is the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.) It was the first modern
repertory company in the USA, bringing in outside choreographers to work
alongside Ailey. The style is a mixture of modern dance with elements of
classical ballet and jazz dancing - strongly technical, but also using the dancers'
personalities to the full. There's an Alvin Ailey school , and a 'junior' company,
and this year they've announced plans for a new building in New York which
will be the largest dance complex in the States.

And what about the repertoire?

Ailey's Pas de Duke is described as 'a modern dance translation of a classical
pas de deux' - a show-off piece; the 'Duke' is Ellington. More Ellington, with
African and hip-hop trimmings, in Ronald K Brown's Grace; and Alonzo King's
'Following the subtle current upstream' promises dizzying action to East Indian
rhythms. Jamison's Divining is an abstract piece set to African and Latin music,
and Ulysses Dove's Bad Blood is a 'war between the sexes' piece - you may
have seen or read about his Red Angels for NYCB recently.

And then there's Revelations. When Dance Magazine ran a Millennium poll to
select the greatest dance work of the twentieth century, it was this Ailey
masterpiece from 1960 that won - partly, perhaps, because it's been seen by so
many people: the company uses it to end the programme almost every night.
But also because it's one of the most moving, exhilarating pieces you'll ever see
in a dance show. Set to spirituals and gospel songs, it's rooted in the black
American tradition, but its appeal is universal. There are wonderful numbers like
'I've been 'buked', 'Fix me, Jesus, fix me', and 'Sinner man' (if you've any attention
to spare during this, imagine what it was like when it was new, and Ailey did the
whole number himself as a solo!) - but it's the finale that gets the audience on its
feet. When the first words start - 'The day is past' - I bet you could look at the
audience and tell with 100% accuracy who's seen it before - they'll all be smiling
in anticipation. If you've never seen it before - never Rocked your Soul in the Bosom of Abraham - oh, lucky, lucky you: as Mary Clarke once said, "Revelations can never be quite as wonderful as it was the
first time you saw Revelations".

So I should go, then?

Yes, yes! But hurry up - the cancelled visit last September was sold out, and many people just transferred their booking to June. I'd guarantee that by the end of their week there won't be a ticket to be had.

__________________

There's an Alvin Ailey page, with links to reviews, interviews etc, at
http://www.ballet.co.uk/links/alvin_ailey.htm



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  Subject     Author     Message Date     ID  
  RE: Alvin Ailey for beginners... Alexandra 20-06-02 1
  RE: Alvin Ailey for beginners... Bruceadmin 21-06-02 2
  RE: Alvin Ailey for beginners... alison 21-06-02 3
  RE: Alvin Ailey for beginners... Jane S 25-06-02 4
     RE: Alvin Ailey for beginners... Alexandra 27-06-02 5
         RE: Alvin Ailey for beginners... AnnWilliams 28-06-02 6
             RE: Alvin Ailey for beginners... Lynette H 28-06-02 7

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Alexandra

20-06-02, 09:08 PM (GMT)
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1. "RE: Alvin Ailey for beginners..."
In response to message #0
 
   What a lovely summary! I wish press kits were as informative

For me, "Revelations" is like a transfusion, and I want one, at least, every year. I'll be curious to read how the season goes over. The last time I saw the company (two years ago) they had some of the best dancers I've ever seen -- technically, they could do anything, and did!


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Bruceadmin

21-06-02, 08:12 AM (GMT)
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2. "RE: Alvin Ailey for beginners..."
In response to message #0
 
   My great thanks too Jane. I've never seen Revelations - looks like I get double helpings next week!


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alison

21-06-02, 01:25 PM (GMT)
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3. "RE: Alvin Ailey for beginners..."
In response to message #0
 
   ... and if you're not clapping along, or possibly just tapping a foot, by the end of Revelations then I think there's probably something wrong with you .

Alison (who promises not to boogie in the aisles when she's in the front of the second circle!)


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Jane S

25-06-02, 10:18 AM (GMT)
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4. "RE: Alvin Ailey for beginners..."
In response to message #0
 
   'Unbelievable, unforgettable, unmissable' - this is Debra Craine on Revelations after last night's performance, and I'm sure anyone who was part of the standing, roaring ovation at Sadler's Wells would agree. According to the box office there are a very few seats left for the rest of the week, with Friday being the best bet. The phone number is 020 7863 8000 - do it now, tomorrow you'll be too late!


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Alexandra

27-06-02, 05:54 PM (GMT)
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5. "RE: Alvin Ailey for beginners..."
In response to message #4
 
   Has no one else seen this? I'm very curious to know how Ailey was received in London, what you all thought. Since the company hadn't been there for so long, there must have been many people seeing it for the first time. Comments? Reviews?


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AnnWilliams

28-06-02, 10:49 AM (GMT)
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6. "RE: Alvin Ailey for beginners..."
In response to message #5
 
   Alexandra - I'm sure you have by now seen Jane Simpson's excellent AA review, and hopefully there will be more. I saw the show on Tuesday and thoroughly enjoyed it, (especially 'Revelations', but who wouldn't?). On the whole, though, I have to say that I was slightly disappointed because the massive hyping of the show before its appearance had led me to expect more. I've written elsewhere about my admiration for the single Ulysses Dove piece on view and the other huge plus point of the show, for me, was the exemplary, beautiful, disciplined dancing of the performers. Those dancers were straight from heaven.


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Lynette H

28-06-02, 05:16 PM (GMT)
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7. "RE: Alvin Ailey for beginners..."
In response to message #6
 
   LAST EDITED ON 28-06-02 AT 05:19 PM (GMT)

It's undoubtedly been a very successful season - Sadlers completely packed, with an eclectic audience of all ages. (I was particularly touched by a little girl in the front row who was so excited by Pas De Duke that she leapt up and down and very nearly climbed on stage to hug the performers). It was probably the most passionate response to a company I've ever heard at Sadlers - lots of whooping, cheering and stomping, particularly in the cheap seats at the back !

Me, I've mentally filed the performance of Revelevations under 'Reasons Why I go To See Dance'. Terrific. Sinner Man got a particularly sizzling performance.

I liked Diving - it worked well as a coherent whole in terms of design, lighting and choreography. The dancers could look fabulous in almost anything though, simply stunning.


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