Review: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at The Kennedy Center

Only Worldviews coexisted within the remembrance of spirit, while timeless historical context filled the John F. Kennedy Center Opera House on Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016. The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, started by Alvin Ailey in 1958, brought us home to the motherland, through an exploration of movement familiar to our bodies and kinship. As Robert Battle (Artistic Director of The Ailey Company) shared an encounter from the company’s trip to South Africa last year, “400 years ago you were my brother…400 years later, you return. You look the same.” These words resonated within the program amongst Ronald K. Brown’s fusion of african dance with contemporary, Rennie Harris’ fluid house style of Hip Hop and the Horton technique of modern dance in Alvin Ailey’s well known Revelations.

Open Door by Ronald K. Brown Dancers: Matthew Rushing and Linda Celeste Sims. Photo by Paul Kolnik.
Open Door by Ronald K. Brown Dancers: Matthew Rushing and Linda Celeste Sims. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

Linda Celeste Sims gracefully took the stage in Ronald K. Brown’s Open Door, with an earthly quality of movement, letting the mixture of jazz and cuban music propel her. Brown’s work required a reminder of spirit, which connected the dancer’s life to cuban culture. Through upward arm gestures and attitudes, african movements with circular hip movements: the choreography included ensemble sections that granted the company the ability to move across the stage with prowess.

Belen Pereyra, whose movement quality prevailed effortlessly, truly embodied the essence of Brown’s style. Through a variance of music by Arturo O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, the choreography of Open Door displays traveling as an “open door” to new possibilities.

AAADT in Exodus by Rennie Harris. Photo by Paul Kolnik.
‘AAADT in Exodus’ by Rennie Harris. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

Rennie Harris’ Exodus was remarkable in its entirety. The true meaning of this piece, from one’s ignorance to enlightenment, all entwined in political statements was beautifully translated through hip hop. Once the beat dropped, the company unquestionably stepped into character allowing their bodies to undulate with intricate footwork. Harris’ style of house allowed the company to transition themselves into one, from a slow start with words claiming “…but my spirit has gone away,” into a collection of white at the end.

Exodus was a refreshing addition to the company’s repertoire, as it continues through its 58th year. The new works, both Exodus and Open Door, delivered an exhilarating experience. Each breath, subtle hand movement, developpé and footwork truly brought forth the artistry of dance.

For people who have seen Ailey for years, understand that it is a blessing to see the Ailey company thrive and continue to hold its legacy. It is interesting to see new dancers in the roles that Renee Robinson and Dudley Williams used to hold. It is a constant reminder that as life goes on, it is important to pass along the truth of the African American experience.

AAADT in Revelations by Alvin Ailey. Photo by Christopher Duggan.
‘AAADT in Revelations’ by Alvin Ailey. Photo by Christopher Duggan.

For this truth, in the Ailey world happens to be showcased every night in their most popular work Revelations. However, the company didn’t quite bring forth that truth. The movement quality that created a breathless feeling, the ease of the arabesque at the end of “Fix Me, Jesus”, and even the figure eight hip movements in “Wade in the Water” lacked that umph needed to truly portray this very challenging choreography.

Although, this night seemed to miss the quality, Alvin Ailey’s spirit still continues through the mere triangular formation in the beginning of Revelations. The sweet taste of freedom was exhibited, as the dancers resembled a flock of birds beginning to take flight. This unison subconsciously suggested that we are one, we are free but it is up to us to move forward.

It is an annual tradition to witness the Ailey company, and it is even more remarkable to witness new works set on the company. Check out the different programs for this week as there are multiple premieres that include choreography from Ronald K. Brown, Rennie Harris, Robert Battle and Paul Taylor. It is imperative that you see these works as they will “open doors” to thought provoking emotions through the artistry of dance.

Running Time: Two hours, with two 15-minute intermissions.

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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performs different programs at The Kennedy Center through Sunday, February 7, 2016, at The Kennedy Center’s Opera House – 2700 F Street, NW, in Washington, DC. For tickets, call the box office at (202) 467-4600 or (800) 444-1324, or purchase them online.

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Artistic Director: Robert Battle. Masazumi Chaya: Associate Artistic Director. Matthew Rushing: Rehearsal Director & Guest Artist.

Company: Hope Boykin, Jeroboam Bozeman, Sean Aaron Carmon, Elisa Clark, Sarah Daley, Ghrai DeVore, Samantha Figgins, Vernard J. Gilmore, Jacqueline Green, Daniel Harder, Jacquelin Harris, Collin Heyward, Demetia Hopkins-Greene, Michael Jackson, Jr., Megan Jakel, Yannick Lebrun, Renaldo Maurice, Michael Francis McBride, Rachael McLaren, Chalvar Monteiro, Akua Noni Parker, Danica Paulos, Belen Pereyra, Jamar Roberts, Samuel Lee Roberts, Kanji Segawa, Glenn Allen Sims, Linda Celeste Sims, Jermaine Terry, Fana Tesfagiorgis, and Marcus Jarrell Willis

 

 

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Yasmeen Enahora
Yasmeen has a magnetic personality and dynamic spirit. As a Hank Aaron Chasing the Dream and Reach for Excellence Scholar, Yasmeen is a senior at Howard University majoring in Sports Medicine with a minor in Dance. Yasmeen currently serves as a reviewer for DC Metro Theater Arts as a Freelance Writer. Having been awarded numerous opportunities since she was young, Yasmeen is very passionate about her endeavors. Before entering college, Yasmeen trained with the Ailey School’s Professional Division for a six week intensive. During her years at Howard University, Yasmeen performed at the Kennedy Center in "Carmen" with the Washington National Opera, “Keuchen” choreographed by Royce Zackery at the International Association of Blacks in Dance in Cleveland, Ohio, and was featured in Howard University’s “28 Days of Dance” online exhibition: a collaboration with Brown Girls Do Ballet. All the while Yasmeen has taken on positions as a Howard University lifeguard, Genesis Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Intern, a Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth Program Assistant, and has regularly volunteered helping kids in the Metro DC area at 826DC. She studied abroad in Oaxaca, Mexico as a Lucy Moten Scholar after being awarded money from Howard University to research ballet and traditional dance in Oaxaca. Yasmeen constantly brings warmth and joy with her infectious energy. She is always striving for new adventures and opportunities.