"Deep", "Piazzola Caldera", "Revelations"
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
David H. Koch Theater
New York, NY
June 11, 2016 matinee
Copyright ©2016 by Carol Pardo
There was nothing all blue at this performance by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater but there was something old, the evergreen "Revelations", new "Deep", Mauro Bigonzetti's second work for the company, less than twenty-four hours old, and borrowed, Paul Taylor's "Piazzola Caldera", added to the repertory last year.
"Deep" was new but not novel, yet another study in the articulation of individual joints, the concentration and control mastered by beautiful trained bodies. There were hand gestures, possibly hip-hop inspired, that hinted at a private language, though, as the piece went on, that language proved to have a limited vocabulary and limited syntax, perhaps intended to define a tight community but coming across as ornamental and fussy. More complex larger scale movement faired no better. At one point, Bigonzetti and the dancers took the most convoluted route possible to have the women stand on the bent knees of their prone partners. Up there, golden light was directed to their faces, their legs left in darkness. After a few moments, the women stepped off their partners knees, discarding rather than developing the initial idea and turning it into a stunt. Only a solo by Glenn Allen Sims bucked the trend. Suddenly everything flowed, extensions undulated through time, cogency and quiet reigned and "Deep" acquired the focus it had lacked. Impossible to whether the dancer or choreographer was the source of such a transformation but it was magical, welcome and, alas, short.
Nor was the choreographer able to reveal anything personal about the music: nine songs, sung in English and Yoruba, by the Franco-Cuban duo Ibenyi (the sisters Naomi and Lisa-Kaindé Diaz) known for their work with Beyoncé. It was treated like a sound track (amplified to the point of distortion) rather than the motor for this dance. If Bigonzetti felt any particular affinity for the music beyond it's amalgam of sources, that was not readily apparent. The choreographer was also responsible for the costumes, black pants or shorts with transparent tops -- not an unfamiliar combination of color and effect on stage or off. The most formally interesting part of the dance was the curtain call when each section's solo dancers came forward to be joined subsequently by their partner(s), stepping out from somewhere far removed in the line up, and standing behind the former. Singly, together, forward and back, a line of sixteen dancers flowed through space. Maybe, for his next piece for the company, Bigonzetti can build on that.
When ballet dancers take on works by Paul Taylor, it is almost a given that they won't have the weight of Taylor's own crew, nor the same sculptural backs. But it was a surprise to find that the Ailey dancers, modern dancers, had the same problems. Their backs are beautiful, but "Piazzola Caldera" didn't move up their spines from the earth, but rippled across their musculature, and they stepped lightly on the earth. This was not a heady and potent cocktail of longing, lust and rage served in a dive bar to tango rhythms, but speed dating with jug wine. Daniel Harder and Michael Francis McBride made machinations of their drunken fight look easy to execute, which was fascinating to watch and a tribute to their skill, but with a cost, the loss of grit and drive that heats "Piazzola's" atmosphere to the boiling point.
After all this time, what can one say about "Revelations"? It is now over fifty years old, and the audience applaudes before the dancers have done anything but breathe. Such is its anticipated joy and welcome familiarity. Two things stood out here, small perhaps but telling. One was the extra moment given to gestures of prayer and devotion by Jacqueline Green in 'Fix Me Jesus' and by Michael Patrick McBride in 'I Want to Be Ready'. That moment, long enough to register but not long enough to be maudlin, stopped the juggernaut to the automatic standing ovation in its tracks and brought hope, longing and redemption to the fore. In 'Rocka My Soul' Ailey keeps the steps tight and contained as the reprise keeps pushing harder and harder. That tension, when released, makes the joy of "Revelations" burst forth with even more force, irresistibly.
Photographs: Top to bottom:
AAADT in Mauro Bigonzetti's Deep. Photo by Paul Kolnik
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Belen Pereyra and Yannick Lebrun in Paul Taylor's Pizzola Caldera. Photo by Paul Kolnik.
AAADT's Demetria Hopkins-Greene in Alvin Ailey's Revelations. Photo by Paul Kolnik