There is no denying that Alvin Ailey’s company is probably the most popular modern dance company, with an estimate of over twenty-five million viewers around the globe. Yet, despite its huge repertoire and extensive performance schedule, there is only one outstanding, true canonic creation- Revelation- set to Gospel songs and choreographed by Ailey in 1960, in the early years of his career. That work had kept the relevancy of the company. Fortunately, all these years ‘Revelation’ remained fresh, since, each performance ended with this brilliant choreography which sumps up the distilled, captivating spirit of the rural, church-going southern American states and the urban energy-filled, sassy urban moving body.
The current tour in Israel offered two very different programs, yet I refer to the first program which included four of Ailey’s creations from the seventies, while the second, offered three works by various choreographers and inevitably ended with Ailey’s ‘Revelations’.
Since Ailey died of HIV in 1989, the company has been managed by a few artistic directors, starting with Judy Jamison, Ailey’s right hand and the company’s overwhelmingly brilliant star dancer, followed only by two more artistic directors. Although all were committed to Ailey's heritage, the current evening’s particular choices were not well-stylistically balanced. The compositions were too simplistic and so were the movement’s lexicon.
The company founder's artistic path was an amalgam of traditional gospel-Christian-religious music, Afro-American spirituals, blues, jazz – mainly Duke Ellington’s – and mixed with a variety of dance disciplines from Martha Graham, Garth Fagan, Jose Limon, and more, all the way to balletic influences, which in this case seemed mostly pretentious since most of the dancers’ technique wasn’t as polished as needed.
In fact, this high-spirited, dynamic company has fine-working communication tools, which enthrall large audiences. That is, after all, the reason that this company chose to be spreading popularity, rather than research challenging more far-fetched pastors. After all, the technique by itself is not the main goal on stage, as in some entertaining circus. The human essence is what captures the audience's attention, particularly in richly expressive theater-dance genera.
‘Cry’’ is a fine example of one of Ailey's most appreciated solo works, created in 1971. It is a soulful dance filled with layers of pain and sorrow and was beautifully danced by Constance Stamatiou.
Frankly, ‘Revelation’ at the end of a rather long evening, turned out to be reviving, a strong turn-on which made our body dance in the seat.