Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at Knight
Posted on 10 Feb 2010 by Mitch Metz
photo credit: Andrew Eccles
Two short days ago, I sat in my living room, munching on a few snacks, watching the New Orleans Saints defeat the Indianapolis Colts. Little did I know, that would be the second most entertaining display of athletic ability I would see this week. The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater rolled into town Tuesday night, bringing grace, style, and talent to the Knight Theater.
photo credits: Andrew Eccles
I will admit, I was a little skeptical. Yes, I studied (and loved) dance in my youth, and yes, I consider myself open minded, and willing to appreciate all forms of art. However, these days, 90% of the tunes leaking from my ipod are performed by someone wearing a cowboy hat, so can this dance troupe deliver the goods? Oh my God, yes!
Prior to curtain, I could already feel the excitement in the house. There was more than the usual hushed buzz in this audience. It was more of a giddy anticipation. The lights dimmed, the show began, and there it was… an average first act entitled “Uptown”. The company moved flawlessly through a series of historical numbers with the help of emcee Jamar Roberts. The numbers were fun and upbeat, yet common. It gave the average theater patron an opportunity to say “yep, I know those dance moves, this is dancing, and they’re doing it well”. This is not to say the dancing itself was average. The performers nailed every move, impressed us with energy and strength, and were obviously having fun throughout the act. My favorite was the young man who danced as drunk, yet was amazingly crisp and concise. All eyes were drawn to his comedic maneuvers. However, Roberts is a dancer, not an actor, and his hokey proclamations were probably better left to a pre-recorded voice-over. The costumes were true to Harlem in the 1920s, and helped dress up the mostly bare stage. Again, a simple, solid Act I, much like the first half of the Superbowl… good, steady entertainment.
“Dancing Spirit” is the name of the second act. A 38 minute dance number that takes us through a celebration of living, and exactly what I came to see! The music took some odd twists and turns, as the troupe, clad in white with blue trim, seemed to move in and out of the rhythm. It was just beautiful to see the progression, as one dancer would give way to another, then again, and again. I got the impression of life, continuing on, no matter the tune nor individual, life kept marching on. This choreography was a little too complex at times for me to completely understand, but I knew I liked it, and I guess that’s what’s important. Somehow, they danced two beats to a 3/4 time measure, and I was totally baffled, yet again, it was stunning dance. A visual wonder that had the audience in suspended awe. This was the onside kick to start the second half.
photo credits: Jack Mitchell
Finally, we get to Ailey’s trademark piece of choreography, “Revelations”, a story of faith presented through the old spirituals. It was originally choreographed in 1960, and 50 years later at the Knight, brought a packed theater to it’s feet.
“Pilgrim Of Sorrow” starts us off with dancers moving together in some sort of a united foundation of faith, gesturing upward in stirring unison. That leads into “Fix Me Jesus”, by far my favorite dance of the night. Amos J. Machanic Jr. and Charlotte’s own Constance Stamatiou brought the house down as the couple leans on one another displaying the stability of their faith. It’s absolutely breathtaking the way music and movement reach out to the crowd during this performance. A more powerful display of passion in dance, I have not seen. “Take Me To The Water” is a more whimsical dance, complete with soul saving baptism. The symbolism during this number is simple, yet strong, and leads us to rejoice for the couple who have found the Lord. The final part of the act is “Move, Members, Move” and begins with quite the opposite of the baptism, as three men scramble around the stage of sin, looking for the way out. Lastly, the entire company goes to church, and we celebrate our beliefs. Touchdown Saints!
This dance production is not about race, nor religion, nor sending a message. The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is about the beauty of movement. Maybe you don’t dance, maybe you can’t even tap your toe without losing the beat, but when you see this show, your body, your mind, your inner appreciation of art, will be inspired and entertained. This is truly a magnificent and elegant performance, playing now through February 14th at the Knight Theater in Charlotte.