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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Ronald K. Brown's "Grace", Alonzo King's "Following the Subtle Current Upstream", and Alvin Ailey's "Revelations"

Paramount Theatre, Seattle, WA
February 25, 2001

By Dina McDermott

The Alvin Ailey company presented a program of three works at this sold-out matinee performance: Ronald K. Brown's Grace, Alonzo King's Following the Subtle Current Upstream and the perennial Ailey classic and signature work Revelations. The adoring audience seemed unable to show their adulation enough. This is a Seattle favorite and the company visits once a year.

The opening piece Grace (1999) was just spectacular. Dance Magazine cover boy, Brooklyn native and recent Guggenheim winner Ronald K. Brown combined elements of African dance and contemporary dance in this piece, accompanied by the pulsating rhythms of American and African pop/soul music. It is rare to go to a concert and honestly say to yourself "that piece had really original movement throughout". Rarer still when the dancers wholeheartedly and intuitively embrace the movement as if they've been doing it their whole lives! But this piece accomplished these goals, and more! Rhythmic, earthy, bouncy, unpredictable movement patterns were performed along a series of grids or pathways delineated by the lighting design. Flowy, solid red, then white, caftan-like costumes and moving backdrops gave Grace a ritualistic, celebratory feel. Mr. Brown, who has recently travelled to the Ivory Coast, seems to have organically melded American contemporary dance and African influences into a style which is infectiously life-affirming. All we can say is "bravo"!

The second piece Alonzo King's Following the Subtle Currents Upstream (2000), set a totally different tone. The movement vocabulary, more traditionally modern, contained duets and trios, which were almost Cunningham-esque in their angularity. Costumes had a sleek, minimal, slightly bizarre, futuristic look The sound score contained jarring, stark droning. One had the feeling of some futuristic planet or society; definitely abstract. Oddly, at the end, African music chimed in, as a industrial, metal globed lamp was lowered from the ceiling. All the while, I could not "locate" these dancers. What were their relationship to each other? WAS it indeed abstract... if so, why the African music at the end, with a change of mood and movement?

Finally, Revelations. What more can one say about a piece that is truly an American classic? Danced to traditional black spiritual music, the dance really seems to be about reverence... religious reverence, spiritual reverence, a feeling of transcending all earthly worries and cares. This, to me, was emphasized by the dancers' first curtain call at the end, with hands clasped as if in prayer.

The dancers were robust throughout and in fine form. Standouts included Matthew Rusing in "I Want to be Ready" solo in Revelations. Actually, it would be hard to single out any special dancers... Ailey is an ensemble of star dancers, really. The audience roared it's approval at the end, and honored the company with a 10-minute ovation!!

Run, do not walk, to the next Ailey concert in your area!


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Edited by Marie.

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