Review | Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

UCSB Arts & Lectures Presented Alvin Ailey at the Granada on Wednesday, April 13

Members of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater | Credit: Dario Calmese

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater program on Wednesday, April 13, at The Granada Theatre gave the audience a chance to bask in the genius of Robert Battle. He has been the company’s artistic director since 2011, when he succeeded Judith Jamison. For more than half of the evening, the dancers performed seven works by Battle before concluding with Alvin Ailey’s classic suite, “Revelations.” 

Ailey Artistic Director Robert Battle | Credit: Andrew Eccles

Battle’s protean creativity meant that, although each piece was recognizably his, there was nothing repetitive about the program. The gorgeous opener, “Mass,” set to a commissioned original score by John Mackey, was inspired by Battle’s experience watching the choir fill the pews at a performance of Verdi’s “Requiem.” The 16 dancers in choir robes rotated through dozens of configurations, all of them resonating with the context of the Black church, thereby creating a through-line for the evening with Ailey’s similarly referenced “Revelations” coming at the end. The title could also be a sly pun on the “massing” of the groups in the choreography. 

“In/Side,” a brilliant solo for Solomon Dumas set to Nina Simone’s song “Wild as the Wind,” showed Battle in poignant conversation with the performer and the lighting designer, Burke Wilmore. “In/Side” recalls the imagery of the great dance photographer George Platt Lynes. Renaldo Maurice partnered with Chalvar Monteiro for an ebullient, jazzy “Ella,” followed by another jazz-based work, “For Four,” a quartet set to music by Wynton Marsalis.

Variations flowed extravagantly from there. We saw what Battle can do with opera in the duet “Unfold” and how well he understands Indian Kathak in the superb Patrick Coker solo “Takademe.” The Battle portion of the evening concluded with an excerpt from “Love Stories” set to music by Stevie Wonder and featuring 10 company members. This piece was “feel great” dance at the highest possible level. It set up a moving and rewarding return to “Revelations” and demonstrated how fully Robert Battle has assumed the mantle of his great predecessors as the Ailey company’s artistic director.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s Chalvar Monteiro and Yannick Lebrun | Credit: Dario Calmese

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