From March 4th through March 8th, 2020, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has returned to the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Ida B. Wells Drive, Chicago, in a sensational rotating program entitled Ailey Revealed which highlighted, showcased, and extended the enormous power this matchless company has held and developed for decades.
The first night’s program included:
- BUSK by Aszure Barton, 2009
The term “busk” comes from the Spanish “to seek”; busking has been incorporated into English to refer to street performance for gratuities. The episodically enfolding piece featured a sole mummer or mime artist in white gloves whose actions seemed to rev up, reverse, retard. Joined by a group of 8 in layered hooded robes, they formed an eerie troupe whose herky-jerky movements worked in off beat time to Romanesque influenced jazzy music. Surrounding and obscuring the offbeat actions was moody dark lighting shot with silver glow. The actions were uncanny, seductive, secretive; members of the group would approach, entice, remove.
- ODE by Jamar Roberts, 2019
Danced in front of a distinctive flower-bedecked background by Libby Stadstad like an enormous dimensional Grecian urn, the piece was conceived as a tribute to victims of gun violence, an embodied poem. In a distinct departure from the overdrawn or the obvious, the movements are lightly limned, refined, and touching in the extreme. The stylized music by American jazz pianist Don Pullen affords a deep grounding to the choreography by Roberts, Ailey’s first resident choreographer, which surges above and beyond any set tempo.
- REVELATIONS by Alvin Ailey, 1960
This segmented piece serves as the ending to all the different performances of Ailey in Chicago. A company signature, it combines an obvious homage to the musical spiritual form while simultaneously providing/performing a send-up of the nature of society’s service to religious elation. Reportedly crafted as a reflection by Ailey on childhood church services, coupled with the influences of iconic Black authors James Baldwin and Langston Hughes, it is set to a variety of classic spiritual tunes. The spectrum of emotions, from grief through transcendence, and including gentle mockery of the mannered are portrayed in the subtlest yet strongest terms. The suite gives the audience a thorough panoply of the human condition in its response to the struggles and rewards of life.
Throughout the evening, the stagecraft- costumes, props, sets, and lighting- topflight as they undoubtedly were, served simply as setoff to the astonishing agility, technical prowess, and sheer gorgeous physicality of the superbly conditioned Ailey athletes. This is dance at its zenith, a mastery of form, and the ability of human ingenuity to create original, theatrical and elegant meld of art and human achievement.
Special thanks to Michelle Jank, Jamar Roberts, Ves Harper and Barbara Forbes for costume design; to Nicole Pearce for lighting and stage design, and to Brandon Stirling Baker and Nicola Cernovitch for lighting design.
For information and tickets to all the great programming at the Auditorium Theatre, go to www.auditoriumtheatre.org