When the Alvin Ailey Dance Company celebrates Black History month, count on a festive party.
Looking for a respite from the political craziness that surrounds our lives? Want something fresh, joyous and honest? How about an escape to the world Alvin Ailey Dance Theater (AADT) at the Kennedy Center through the weekend. Just a few strains of Ailey’s gospel-singing, toe-tapping, hand-clapping “Revelations” will bring back that smile that’s been missing too long. You may even become a diehard fan like so many at the Kennedy Center Opera House this past Tuesday evening.
People just can’t get enough of the joy “Revelations” brings.
Maybe it’s the pop-concert ambiance of an Ailey performance, or the rich African-American heritage it calls upon, or just the gut-wrenching fervor and physicality of the dancing. Whatever the reason, Ailey’s fans are as loud as they are loyal. The rousing “Revelations” finale reflects Ailey’s gospel-singing upbringing in the Texas Bible Belt where he grew up. It absolutely works magic no matter where the dance is performed or where the viewer was raised. People just can’t get enough of the joy “Revelations” brings.
In all my years of writing dance reviews, I can’t recall a performance where the audience started yelling and clapping as soon as the first note of the dance score was heard. This was true for all three offerings in the opening program, which repeats during the too-short run.
Alonzo King calls his works “‘thought structures’ formed by the manipulation of energies that exist in matter, through laws that govern the shapes and movement directions of everything that exists.” No need to comb through these words to enjoy the opening dance, “Following the Subtle Current Upstream” (2000, new production, 2023).
Watching a Ronald K. Brown performance piece is a spiritual experience. Beauty, power and strength reach out from the stage to grab hold of an audience. This was true with “Dancing Spirit,” and the audience couldn’t get enough of it.
Brown pays tribute to Artistic Director Emerita Judith Jamison’s profound influence with the Company. Set to music by Duke Ellington, Wynton Marsalis, and War, Brown’s powerful choreography uses movement from Cuba, Brazil, and the United States to capture Jamison’s brilliance, especially in her signature “Cry” solo. Kudos to the lead female dancer who captured Jamison in her glory.
Then came “Revelations,” the timeless masterpiece that explores themes of spirituality, resilience, and hope, performed with such raw emotion and intensity that it brought tears to the eyes of many in the audience, including this writer. The dancers’ powerful portrayal of joy, sorrow, and redemption left a lasting impression that will not soon be forgotten.
“Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel” was especially moving with trio Xavier Mack, Alisha Rena Peek, and Isabel Wallace-Green. “Fix Me, Jesus,” featured Corrin, Rachelle Mitchell, and Michael Jackson, Jr. in a sultry pas de deux. The audience went wild as we watched three bare-chested men rip across the stage in “Sinner Man,” then fall to the ground, circle up and begin again with even more zest. The company rose to the occasion in “Rock My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham,” still sassy and fun after all these years. It was created in 1960.
We started to leave during the fifth standing ovation, but was told by an usher that the dancers would probably do an encore. We returned to our seats for more magic and a socko show-stopper, as always.
Running Time: Two hours, with two 15-minute intermissions.
The Alvin Ailey Dance American Theater performs different programs from its touring repertory at the Kennedy Center through the Sunday matinee, February 11, 2024 at The Kennedy Center’s Opera House, 2700 F St NW, Washington, DC 20566. For tickets, call the Box Office at (202) 467-4600 or (800) 444-1324, or purchase them online. Note: Performance schedule subject to change. Running times may vary. And do check for last-minute cancellations of tickets.