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Lift, Petit Mort & Strange Humor: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at the New York City Center, Dec 4-Jan 5, 2014….

December 14, 2013
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Jamar Roberts in Aszure Barton's LIFT.  Photo by Paul Kolnik

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Jamar Roberts in Aszure Barton’s LIFT. Photo by Paul Kolnik

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s new work, Lift by Canadian choreographer Aszure Barton was a bit of a disappointment. Though it must be stated the opening section of the work for eleven men was promising and proved compelling.  With Curtis Macdonald’s pulsating score, the eleven bare-chested men moved their torso with a snake-like silkiness and matched this with energies that exploded from the stage. If the work has ended here, it would have been a winner and what a winner it would have been.

For this new work, Ms. Barton seems inclined to travel a similar road as Robert Battle; Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Artistic Director’s brilliant works, The Hunt and Takademe, but unfortunately she got lost along the way somewhere. Mr. Battle’s mentioned works explore saccadic rhythm and raw energies while still being unique and fresh.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Linda Celeste Sims and Jamar Roberts in Aszure Barton's LIFT.  Photo by Paul Kolnik

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Linda Celeste Sims and Jamar Roberts in Aszure Barton’s LIFT. Photo by Paul Kolnik

In an awkward duet, Linda Celeste Sims walks across the front of the stage backward while her lips are pressed against Jamar Roberts’ sternum. Mr. Roberts moves forward with his shoulders hunched over oddly and seems somewhat oblivious to Ms. Sims presence. Their body language during this duet was just strange, as if even they had no idea why they were doing it.

The first section of Aszure Barton’s Lift for eleven men is again, I thought a brilliant and powerful work, capable of standing on it’s on. It was, alone, well worth the amount of rehearsal time that it took for the creation of the work as a whole. But sadly, the rest of the work could be discarded and nobody would miss it.

Jíři Kylián’s Petit Mort is one of those works that no matter how many times I see it I still find it fascinating. The work possesses a humor that is both eccentric and somewhat sweet. There is a tongue-in-cheek element that cannot be missed and had to have been intentional on Mr. Kylián’s part. Petite Mort, literally meaning “small death” serves as a paraphrase for orgasm in French and Arabic.

The work was composed for the 1991 Salzburg Festival on the second centenary of Mozart’s death with six men, six women, and six foils to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Piano Concerto in A Major – Adagio and Piano Concerto in C Major – Andante.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Yannick Lebrun, Kirven Douthit-Boyd and Antonio Douthit-Boyd in Jirí Kylián's Petite Mort. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Yannick Lebrun, Kirven Douthit-Boyd and Antonio Douthit-Boyd in Jirí Kylián’s Petite Mort. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

Wearing Joke Vasser’s high-waist nude colored shorts, the curtain rises to six men walking backwards in silence, the foils in their right hand are raised above the heads. The men very slowly lower the foils, take them in their left hands, they swing the coils around back and forth. The foils make a delicious swooshing noise as they fly through the air. Often it is not quite clear who exactly is the partner to the men, the women or the foils.

As six women emerge from the back while seeming to wear black baroque dresses, they suddenly step away from the dresses. The dresses are movable props that the women can step into and out of. They roll smoothly across the stage, giving the women almost other world characteristics. The company did the work justice and it was a fun and very enjoyable performance.

Robert Battle’s Strange Humor was a tour-de-force performance for both Renaldo Gardner and Micheal Francis McBride. The work begins with the two men standing in a strip of light that streak across a darker stage

Bare chested and wearing rose-colored pants both men’s dancing fully explored John Mackey’s score. It’s as if one dancer wants to flee and the other wants to come to his aid, but at times an invisible barrier of reluctance stands between them. The choreography ranges from staccato movements to lyrical phrases. There were moments of tenderness as the two men came together. All in all, it was a great performance by both men. Bravo, Mr. Gardner and Mr. McBride.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Kirven Douthit-Boyd and Samuel Lee Roberts in Robert Battle's Strange Humors. Photo by Paul Kolnik

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Kirven Douthit-Boyd and Samuel Lee Roberts in Robert Battle’s Strange Humors. Photo by Paul Kolnik

Ronald K. Brown’s Grace I did not fully get. The music, which ranged from gospel to club, did not get to be fully utilized by the dancers. Mr. Brown use of pounding feet and having the women swing their hair was a poor use of the skilled Ailey dancers. It is not a bad piece, just not my favorite. But, in full honesty, the audience loved it….

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