It's been six years since the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has been to Utah. In the recent years, Ailey II has graced the Beehive State's stages, but AAADT hasn't performed here since the 2002 Winter Games.
That all changed Tuesday night when the company returned to Kingsbury Hall. The performance reacquainted the company with Utah. And by the end of the evening, the dancers and audience members parted as old friends.
The evening began with a video honoring the company's 50-year history. It featured taped interviews with rehearsal director Ronni Favors, associate artistic director Masazumi Chaya, dance historian Zita Allen, current artistic director Judith Jamison, who will retire at the end of this season, and the late Ailey.
From then, the production went live with Maurice Bejart's "Firebird."
The contemporary ballet work, which premiered in 1970, started off slow and tentative and built to a heart-pounding finish.
The dancers' sculpted-body lines and extensions highlighted the beauty of the work, which is about giving, death and resurrection.
Twyla Tharp's 1983 aerobic bundle of energy, titled "The Golden Section," gave the dancers a chance to show a playful side.
The piece is, literally, dancing for the joy of movement.
Laced with heart-stopping leaps of faith and last-minute catches, "The Golden Section" captured the audience's full attention. Furthermore, the feeling of joy was contagious and the audience members found themselves giving sporadic applause throughout the run.
There were times, however, when the movement and energy became a bit too much and the dancers fell out of form. But quick recoveries fixed those areas, and the dancers persevered.
The evening ended with Ailey's "Revelations." Choreographed in 1960, "Revelations" has become Ailey's trademark epic.
Three segments comprised of short vignettes captured the culture of the American South.
The piece is danced with so much emotion and conviction that the audience could almost feel humidity rolling off the stage.
Backed by recordings of Spirituals and Gospel music, the dancers touched on the various stages of sin, regret and salvation.
The dancers found balance in ballet-based, modern-dance expression in works such as "I Been 'Buked," "Didn't My Lord Deliver Daniel" and the pleading pas de deux, "Fix Me, Jesus."
The flavor of a cleansing Southern baptism lit up the stage during the "Take Me to the Water" segment that began with a celebratory processional and ended with a focused solo, titled "I Wanna Be Ready."
With each vignette, the audience found itself drawn deeper and deeper into the work. Insomuch that by the finale and reprise of "Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham," the audience was clapping and cheering along as if the performance had become a traveling salvation show.Six years is a long time to be away. Here's hoping the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater won't wait that long to return.
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