October 3, 2023
After London’s September treat of four programmes from Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the rest of the country is getting a taste of Ailey energy and style with Ailey 2 and its ensemble of some of top American young talent.
The programme gets off to cracking start with an extended excerpt from William Forsythe’s 1989 work, Enemy in the Figure. Driven on Thom Willems’ electronic, percussive score, it’s often dark, often brooding. Minus its usual undulating wooden wall that’s initially positioned diagonally across the space, Ailey 2’s presentation does rather miss out on the choreographer’s ideas of playing with light and space, although on the plus side, that certainly puts the focus absolutely on technique.
And what a show the young cast put on. As the dancers come and go, the choreography is packed with Forsythe’s favoured big extensions and lines. They dance alone and in duets, bodies also twisting, turning and morphing into strange shapes. It’s disjoined and urgent, although there are quieter moments too, the best featuring a delicious solo by Jaryd Farcon that was full of clarity and purpose.
Excerpts from artistic director Francesca Harper’s Freedom Series brings a change of mood. The work is a series of vignettes that project a landscape of memories. Of the four danced, the stand out by far is the second, danced to ‘Little Fly’ by Esperanza Spalding, a quiet and melodic piece in which William Blake’s poem ‘The Fly’ is set to music. Performing in a silvery dress that caught the light beautifully, Kali Marie Oliver’s dance in the ‘Futurity Solo,’ always full of feeling, merged seamlessly with the music’s bass and strings.
Maggy van den Heuvel brought a different feel to the following ‘Nest Solo,’ appearing to wrestle with thoughts buried deep inside as she moved alongside a second dancer holding a lit globe. More dancers and more globes then added to the scene’s dreamy mood. After all that, the busy closing section, to Bach’s Double Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor, seemed misplaced, but perhaps it works better seen in the context of the piece as a whole.
Pick of the evening was Robert Battle’s The Hunt. Danced to a thundering percussive soundtrack by Les Tambours du Bronx that sounds a bit like taiko drumming but on sheet metal, it’s about the predatory side of human nature. It’s intense. Very intense.
Dressed in designer Mia McSwain’s long black Japanese hakama-style skirts lined with red, the cast of Andrew Bryant, Spencer Everett (who especially thrilled), Patrick Gamble and Corinth Moulterie were angry, explosive and gladiatorial in a fiery display. It was visceral and very masculine, although at some shows the work is being danced by an all-female cast, which likely produces a different but no-less dramatic mood.
Ailey 2 round off with Alvin Ailey’s always audience-pleasing Revelations, the youthful cast imbuing it with a welcome freshness. The whirlwind ‘Sinner Man’ stood out as it always does. Bryant, Moulterie and Everett rattled off the leaps and turns at breakneck speed. Farcon wowed again in ‘I Wanna Be Ready.’
But it was ‘Fix Me, Jesus’ that surprised. Kali Marie Oliver and Andrew Bryant gave what I think is the most moving performance of it I have ever seen. And I’ve seen a lot. The chemistry looked so natural, so real. They were absolutely in tune with one another, her control, her balletic grace, his support, all outstanding. It was very special.
The closing scene and obligatory encore sent everyone home happy as it always does. But why not, because it was a fine evening. Ailey 2. Catch them if you can.
Presented by the Dance Consortium, Ailey 2 continue on tour to October 28, 2023. Visit danceconsortium.com for dates, venues and booking links.