Together, Kyle Abraham, Robert Battle, Ronald K. Brown and Rennie Harris have made a total of 13 works specifically for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. For one evening (June 9), they were combined as “21st Century Voices … today’s preeminent choreographers.” During their 2015 winter season at City Center, Battle, now five years in the artistic director position, created his first new work for the company, “Awakening,” a big and bold mix of really loud music, fast-changing lights and nonstop movement for a cast of 12, headed by Jamar Roberts.
Brown’s sultry play on Cuban folk form, “Open Door,” also premiered at City Center, but here, the dancers found their groove and the work has grown into a seamless synthesis of Brown’s signature moves slowed and smoothed. The other returning work is Harris’ “Exodus,” which debuted last summer. In July 2015 for AmNews, I wrote, this work was Harris’ “… cry about the atrocities in the African-American community … From the jarring gunshot in the beginning to the hope opined in white costumes in the end, Harris dares to offer global possibilities.” This large cast was headed brilliantly by Jeroboam Bozeman, who, with the cast blends, masters Harris’ moves. Battle’s cast of 18 in his stark “No Longer Silent” (2007), an Ailey premiere, shifts the tone of the evening. Think gray woolens (Martha Graham) or German Tanztheater (Pina Bausch) and all is clear. Of the four works, Abraham premiered the second installment of his three-part suite, “Untitled America: Second Movement.” Slated to be completed this year, his investigation “… explores the impact of incarceration on African-Americans and their families …”
The first, “Untitled America: First Movement,” danced by Jacqueline Green, Chalvar Monteiro and Danica Paulos during their City Center season, was too short and left us wanting more. This time the cast of seven (Monteiro, Jamar Roberts, Michael Jackson Jr., Ghrai DeVore, Samantha Figgins, Belen Pereyra and Constance Stamatiou) stayed longer and pushed emotions. Framed by Dan Scully’s dreamlike lights moving from darkness to illumination, they touch the ground, and then are back up, against a mournful traditional 1940s work song that cries out, “No More My Lord, No More.”
Later the accompaniment is recorded lamentations of African-American prisoners, mixed with electronic music by the London-based duo, Raime. Often in unison and repeating phrases, or solos and duets laden with unwavering gesture after gesture, the dancers crouch, help each other stand or find ways to unpin themselves from cuffed wrists. Abraham did not disappoint. What is equally satisfying is each dancer’s ability to own and dance each of the four works so well.
Mauro Bigonzetti’s “Deep” is the other premiere for this season. Returning repertory are Paul Taylor’s “Piazzolla Caldera” and Ailey’s signature “Revelations” for the evening titled, “Dance Trailblazers: Works by Three Seminal Choreographers.” Other evenings include “All Ailey,” four of Alvin Ailey’s classic ballets: “Blues Suite,” “Love Songs,” “Cry” and “Revelations”; “Bold Visions,” a diverse quartet of works: “Deep,” Ulysses Dove’s “Vespers,” Battle’s “The Hunt” and “Revelations”; and finally “Musical Inspirations,” four music-driven pieces: “Open Door,” Battle’s “Awakening,” Jamison’s “A Case of You” and “Revelations.” The season runs until June 19.