The Alvin Ailey company of outstanding dancers, with the gifted Robert Battle at its helm, celebrated his 10 years as Artistic Director with an exceptional program of dance on April 9, 2022 at Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at the Music Center. The matinee program was filled with stunning surprises in concepts, heart-stopping movement and plenty of spirit.

The afternoon opened with Aszure Barton’s astounding piece, Busk (Spanish root: Buskar = to seek). Dressing the dancers in black monk-like hoods, draped jackets, and oversized pants, masterfully designed by Michelle Jank, gave the dancers a Medieval appearance that made the rare showing of skin shine under the moonlit stage space. The shrouded dancers so fully disguised any preparations for actions which made them magically alight in the air without warning, then like rag dolls they tucked and rolled and were drawn back into their amoeba-like groups. At moments, the wide-open facial expressions seemed to share their silent feelings. They then swirled, tapped, and fell, unfurling like dominoes. The intriguing and eclectic music partnered with Barton’s intelligence of movement and ideas was an intricate and joyous experience. From the exquisite August Soderman’s mid-19th century choral Kyrie, to Moondog’s rhythmic tapping invention couched in Saint Saëns, Daniel Belanger and Ljova, kept the awesome action going. The dancers Lloyd A. Boyd Ill, Clifton Brown, Patrick Coker, Carl Ponce Cubero, Ashley Kaylynn Green, Jacqueline Green, Renaldo Maurice, Ashley Mayeux, Alisha Rena Peek, Belén Indhira Pereyra, Miranda Quinn, Christopher R. Wilson, Brandon Michael Woolridge were non-stop remarkable. This company of spirited dancers, with their technical and physical prowess made this piece the highlight of a truly uplifting program for the day.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Aszure Barton's "Busk" - Photo: ©Paul Kolnik

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Aszure Barton’s “Busk” – Photo: ©Paul Kolnik

The next two pieces by the artful Robert Battle were Ella and the Finale of Love Stories. In the first piece, the legendary Ella Fitzgerald’s scatting brilliance taken from a live concert performance of “Airmail Special” inspired the fun and athletic onstage antics of Samantha Figgins and Renaldo Maurice in their effortless, wily nimbleness and endurance. The costumes by Jon Taylor, deep brown tuxedo with glittering lapels, and the intense lighting by Burke Wilmore joyously matched Ella’s playful guile

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater - Renaldo Maurice and Patrick Coker in Robert Battle's "Ella" with live music - Photo by Christopher Duggan

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater – Renaldo Maurice and Patrick Coker in Robert Battle’s “Ella” with live music – Photo by Christopher Duggan

The second piece was the Finale of Love Stories with the music of the classic soul and pop artist, Stevie Wonder’s Fingertips. The Ailey dancers; Jacqueline Green, Miranda Quinn, Khalia Campbell, Caroline T. Dartey, Ashley Kaylynn Green, Christopher R. Wilson, Jermaine Terry, Carl Ponce Cubero, Lloyd A. Boyd Ill, and Patrick Coker’s undulating rhythmic moves mesmerized and engaged the audience to feel the vibes. The piece was influenced by Battle’s desire to celebrate African roots and the concept of “Sankofa” It is not wrong to go back for that which you have forgotten. The piece then climaxed, breaking out into action that simply could not wait to be set free. The dancers, and the audience, let go and it was pure joy and celebration of life and tradition.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater - Robert Battle's "Love Stories" (Excerpt) - Photo by Paul Kolnik

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater – Robert Battle’s “Love Stories” (Excerpt) – Photo by Paul Kolnik

In1960’s, all the way through to the pandemic, Revelations so beloved and requested by audiences worldwide, confirmed and shared a humanity and a sense of soul. In its representation of the many colors of Black History, the lives, fears, griefs, joys and elations, when done with the complete commitment of the dancers rises to the full breadth Ailey intended. It is without a doubt the staple of the company’s repertoire. It has gotten them through a pandemic (Youtube: The Call to Unite), the death of their creative leader Ailey himself, the nurturing hand and history of Judith Jamison and now through Robert Battle’s sage leadership in his 10th anniversary. This piece, in particular, needs to call home the spirits of its powerful choreographer and his mentors, Horton, Dunham, Primus, Graham.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Ailey's Revelations - Photo by Paul Kolnik

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Ailey’s “Revelations” – Photo by Paul Kolnik

Having seen the company in the 60’s through to 2017 the power of the performances and the strength of the call to the faithful can be palpable. However, many years and several iterations later, and even in comparison to the earlier work of this particular Saturday; it was clear the loss of the spirit of Rushing’s gut wrenching “I Wanna Be Ready” or Jamison’s full bodied soul, billowing from under her bigger-than-life parasol, seemed this Saturday to take the church out of the revelation. There were, however, some performers who seemed to find deep inside themselves the resources to dance at full tilt from their spiritual gut. This deserves congratulations and thanks for sharing your defiance of letdown and burn-out.

Yet, to all the members of the Alvin Ailey Company, thank you for your tireless gift of the spirit. We all need your power and deep commitment to help get through these changing times. Thank you for doing what you love to do, it affects us all and gives us hope in wo/mankind and in the future.


To learn more about the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, please visit their website.

To find out more about Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at the Music Center, please visit their website.

To see what else is taking place at The Music Center, please visit their website.

Written by Joanne DiVito for LA Dance Chronicle.

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Featured image: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Robert Battle’s excerpt from Love Stories – Photo: ©Paul Kolnik