Tue 12 Oct, Cardiff Millennium Centre
Last Tuesday I was privileged with the opportunity to review The Alvin Ailey Dance Company at the Impressive Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay. As a recent graduate of contemporary dance I was excited to be reviewing the work of such a highly acclaimed American company. Ailey’s theatre began with its first performance in 1958 and has since developed over 200 works within its repertoire. After Ailey’s untimely death in 1989, Judith Jamison has taken on the role of Artistic Director, working to preserve the legacy of the company’s original founder.
Preceding the evening’s show, the atmosphere in the bar was electric with anticipation for the exciting repertoire that had been prepared for the performance. The program was to include Ailey’s renowned work Revelations, which celebrates the rich heritage of African American Culture.
The first piece, Suite Otis, choreographed by George W.Faison, launched the production into a fusion of high energy jazz, ballet and contemporary dance.
The choreography of the dance was motivated by the soul stirring songs of Otis Redding. The theme of the piece focused on the traditional characteristics of gender roles within the dynamic of a heterosexual relationship. Both genders established their presence in separate dances. The choreography excited the audience through repeated, infectious hip jive and body roll actions. The dancers wore fantastic pink costumes relating to the predominant theme of love in the dance. The highlight of the piece was an intimate duet, exploring the extremities of emotion in a typical relationship, with the dancers exhausting every ounce of energy to express the sorrowful lyrics of the music and subject of the dance.
IN/SIDE, the second performance by Jamar Roberts was an intimate male solo which truly captivated the audience through exposing the authentic beauty of the African American physical form and intuitive sense of rhythm. The dance invited the audience to witness the impressive athletic physique of the male dancer, exposing the fluid integration of the muscles in action as he confidently performed the intricate choreography in a pair of insignificant Speedos.
The following piece, Hymn, by Judith Jamison, was far more abstract in its nature in comparison to the other performances of the evening. Both genders blended as one, each executing the movement as gracefully as one another. The repetitive motifs in the choreography and the musical composition transfixed us into a hypnotic gaze through the catalogue of intricate movements echoing across the stage. The cleverly crafted piece guided the dancers through fixed phrases of choreography performed diagonally across the stage, subsequently drawing them into the surrounding space, allowed for the seemingly improvisational nature of the movement with the expression becoming creatively personalised to the individual performing the dance. The heavy blue costumes emphasised the quality of the choreography in transition from the body, extending through the material and into the performance space. The entire piece was a visual spectacle inviting the audience to indulge in the unique events echoing throughout the space whilst finding moments of synchronous harmony.
The festival of dance was drawn to a close with Ailey’s most renowned work, Revelations, celebrating the jubilant, at times sorrowful, yet hopeful heritage of African American culture. The powerful energy of the piece was ignited by the shared experiences of the characters in the dance. The choreography gripped the audience with the strength of the messages delivered through the precision and commitment of the dancers. From spiritual songs to gospel rock, the music, in addition to the boldly designed costumes, drew attention to the quality of the movement and heightened the theatrical spectacle of the work. The rippling movement of the arms, accentuated by the use of silk fabric across the stage in the section Wade in The Water cleverly combined to form a rich interpretation of the messages in the movement. Fix Me Jesus, a section of the piece illustrating women’s historic role in the ritual of prayer, conveys the spirit of hope for freedom from ethnic oppression that is an intrinsic part of their faith.
If you want to experience a timeless classic that injects the audience with an inspiring sense of energy generated through innovative choreography, then this is a must see. This impressive production will have you hip jiving and gospel singing your way out of the theatre. The company is touring till the end of October so if you’d like to indulge in some culture this month I would highly recommend these guys with their soul stirring attitude.