By now you would think that Alvin Ailey’s famous dancers would be used to standing ovations and excited shout-outs mid-way through a dance. After all, for six decades, audiences have been cheering, clapping, and demanding encore after encore of “Revelations,” Ailey’s signature work that has been performed all over the world.
Now the company is back dancing in DC at the Kennedy Center Opera House through Sunday, and you can bet on an uplifting show with at least one encore of “Revelations.” That alone is worth the cost of your ticket and parking (now $25 at the Center). What a wonderful beginning to Black History Month!
‘Revelations’…alone is worth the cost of your ticket…
Ailey dancers know how to entertain, and they revel in “Revelations” and other dances designed to celebrate Alvin Ailey’s Texas roots—being a black man in the South, and, especially, church on a Sunday morning—all part of his heritage. While we lost Alvin 32 years ago, his legacy lives on. Robert Battle now directs the Alvin Ailey Company, with support from former Ailey dancers and choreographers.
These were my thoughts about the two new works and two familiar dances. During “Revelations,” set to a hand-clapping medley of gospel songs, some folks rocked in their seats during the 35-minute “ballet,” as Alvin Ailey referred to it. Others were quiet during “Fix Me Jesus” and “I Wanna Be Ready,” while the cheers were thunderous for “Sinner Man.” Lloyd A. Boyd III, Christopher R. Wilson, and amazing Kanji Segawa were phenomenal.
I watched Baltimore’s own star dancer, Jacqueline Green, raise her white umbrella to the heavens in “Wade in the Water,” then twirl around and around changing her grip on the handle as she whisked away. She was joined by Vernard J. Gilmore and dancer extraordinaire, Samantha Figgins, who dazzled us in other works in the opening night program.
The entire company—women wearing floppy hats and holding hand fans as if at a church gathering— soared in “Rocka My Soul in the bosom of Abraham.” No doubt “Revelations” always serves well as the company’s socko finale number.
Still the night belonged to Constance Stamatiou who performed “Cry,” Ailey’s 1971 birthday present to his mom, dedicated “For all Black women everywhere—especially our mothers.” Dressed in a white top and long ruffled skirt, Stamatiou begins her solo, slowly moving to a song by Alice Coltrane. A large white scarf becomes a scrub rag, a turban, perhaps a shroud, as she reminds herself of a black woman’s sometimes sad, sometimes proud inheritance.
Then she writhes in agony to Laura Nyro’s lament, “Poverty Train.” Finally she raises her arms in sobbing, stamping joy to an uplifting spiritual sung by the East Harlem choir echoing “freedom.” In addition to her stage magnetism and dramatic projection, the lithe dancer is an expert at such astonishing African movements.
There were other special moments in the Kennedy Center program. The premiere of Jamar Roberts’ “Holding Space” proved to be a showcase for the newer members of the company. Again, dressed in white, the 13 dancers moved around each other, never touching, and finding individual space to electronic music—a reflection of isolation during COVID and escaping into a world of futuristic sound.
“For Four” is a snazzy, jazzy new work by the artistic director, Robert Battle. Again we see the four dancers perform individually, never coming closer to each other than the socially-distant six feet. But just one note of the Wynton Marsalis score brought cheers, and again, the audience cried out with joy.
Running time: Two hours and 20 minutes with two 15-minute intermissions.
The Alvin Ailey American Dance Company performs now through Sunday, February 6, 2022 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2700 F Street, NW Washington, DC 20566. While you can’t miss choosing any of the remaining five concerts, Robert Battle celebrates his 10th anniversary with an extraordinary program. For information and tickets for this Dance Series, visit here.
Get their early and check out The REACH at the Kennedy Center as it glows again with the return of Winter Lanterns, a free display of approximately 100 stunning lanterns made up of 10,000 colored LED lights, all crafted by Chinese artisans. In celebration of the Lunar New Year, “Winter Lanterns!” continues now through Sunday, February 6, 2022. REACH Winter Lanterns Hours: Thursday-Saturday, 5:30-9:30 p.m. and Sunday, 4-9 p.m.