Review: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Programme I: ‘Homage to Alvin Ailey ’ at Sadler's Wells

Performance: 4 - 15 Sep 07
Reviewed by Libby Costello - Wednesday 5 September 2007

Performance: 4 Sep 07

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater opened their run of 13 performances last night at Sadler’s Wells. The sell out performance attracted many of the dance world, along with first time audience members who were vastly impressed by the Sadler’s Wells building. Judith Jamison,, Artistic Director of the company, brought a diverse programme to London, showcasing the talents of Ailey as a choreographer, along with his work in collaboration with Duke Ellington. The company brought three different programmes, including one new work by Camille Brown. The first night saw programme one, aptly titled as Homage to Alvin Ailey.

Night Creatures, choreographed by Ailey and composed by Ellington, gave the audience a very classical opening to the companies stay in London. The five couples that opened the piece looked like they were attending an exclusive cocktail party, or were depicting a scene of young socialites in the early twentieth century, with the women dressed in long flowing dresses. This image was then broken down with the introduction of movements in a jazz style, with elements of soft shoe shuffle coming through. Although the energy was high throughout the piece the dancers had not quite moved this work out of the rehearsal space, resulting in a very careful performance. The movement depicted clearly displayed where today’s choreographers working in advertising, musical theatre and film have gained inspiration from.

The short work Pas de Duke famed for its creation on Jamison and Mikhail Baryshnikov showed Ailey’s understanding of characters and individual movement style. Once again the dancers seemed a little apprehensive, lacking the personality of the choreographies original dancers, but their understated performance gained in confidence by the end of the performance. Matthew Rushing’s moments of elevation were exquisite and the performance was lifted by Linda Celeste Sims’ sassy posses and cheeky looks.

The restaging of The River, originally choreographed in 1970, managed to keep the initial links between dance and music, showing movement visualisation at its best. Broken into seven section the piece utilises images of Springs, Lakes and Falls. The unison partner work throughout this piece lack the graceful element the choreographer was trying to depict, but this was forgotten by the last duet by Renee Robinson and Clifton Brown who showed true intimacy through their movement. The crowd pleasing section, mainstream, was cleverly choreographed with one comic male dancer going across the lines of uniform dancers.

Revelations, the most famous work by Ailey, choreographed to traditional gospel music in 1960 suited the dancers bodies and style as if it were choreographed on them yesterday. The uplifting movements drawing upon ballet, jazz and traditional African techniques were performed to a series of songs, some well known such as Sinner Man and other slightly less popular such as I wanna be ready. The duets, solos and group pieces were opened by a golden light shining upon the dancers stood in a V formation, with the simplistic arm movements and changes of weight, on mass, making a stunning spectacle. Every section revealed a new dimension to the company, from the serious duet in Fix Me, Jesus, to the energised finale of Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham. A piece not to be missed.

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