Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
MIKE McGEE | 4/17/2017, 3:38 a.m.
The Dallas Examiner
“What can I say about this company?” asked Charles Santos, executive/artistic director of Texas International Theatrical Arts Society, as he introduced The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater to the Winspear Opera House audience March 31 for the first of a three-day engagement.
“They are probably the No. 1 touring company in America. They are one of the great, great dance companies in the world today, continuing a legacy of one of the great artists of our time, Alvin Ailey,” he said. “This is the company that comes with greatest dance music performance today, and an extraordinary selection of repertory work.”
With that buildup, the theater group came ready to work to live up to such praise. The performance began with blackness. In the darkened theater, the curtain rose to reveal a barely lit stage. A trio of dancers dressed in black performed the first program of the night, DEEP.
The dancers first moved with their arms extended, birds taking wing, easing forward, then falling back together as one would attempt to fly too far forward. The music of Ibeyi, combining American, European and African cultures, complemented the fluidity of the dance. More and more members of the company would periodically enter the stage, and feet, necks, abdomens, elbows and hands were as much a part of the action individually as the larger physical movements.
Soon, the performance space was filled with bodies moving like snakes, birds, gazelles, spinning and gesturing – at times in unison; counter to one another in other moments – as a lone piano solo might give way to a drum beat and vocalizations, the musical elements combining with the physical, dipping between smooth transitions and jarring abruptness, just as the nature around us may appear at times.
Next, WALKING MAD was presented. The production took place in front of a wooden wall that acted as both scenery and prop, as it was movable by performers to augment the concept of the dance. The act began as a humorous look at the “dance of seduction,” the timeless chase between men and women who are interested – or at times, disinterested – in one another. Yet as the performance continued and the wall was utilized at various times as a platform, a barrier or a darkened corner, the humor gave way to the smaller complexities of relationships. While Ravel’s Bolero played, the idea of rejection played out. The rejected transformed into one used, then controlled. Concepts of multiple partners, force, acts committed in desperation for companionship and reactions to the futility of unrequited love – all were presented wordlessly, with an incredible athleticism contrasting the fragile emotions that are bound up in physical and romantic connections.
The next program, AFTER THE RAIN PAS DE DEUX, unveiled the music of Arvo Part’s Spiegel im Spiegel in support of a duet of a male and female dancer. The unadorned stage and bright light drew focus solely onto the pair as they performed in the one piece of the evening that most closely resembled a ballet in terms of dance style.