The Ailey Company at Zellerbach, Program B, March 14

18 Mar

The audience Wednesday was ready and primed for the Paul Taylor and Robert Battle pieces of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Program B.  How could you help it when it was predominantly a display of the Ailey male dancers, plus the three women in Arden Court?  This 1981 piece to William Boyce music, the 18th century English composer, reflects Taylor’s fondness for the baroque, plus his ability to capture the quality of its  fulsome linear certitude.

The men come bounding out of up stage right jumping with a pointing thrust leg , the supporting leg quickly drawn up in half passe; step, repeating the maneuver until the stage diagonal has been crossed, arms spread and slightly lifted.  Difficult, you  betcha!  Magnificent to watch, bien sur! With those washboard torsos, sculpted arms and legs and proud heads, oh, come on!

Then there is a typical Taylor movement – a half run, half-stride , the arms up in broad V shape, torso slightly inflected with the impulse.  With native African-American instinct, it  became a theatrical declaration of exactly how gorgeous,  how right it is to see a Taylor work on the Ailey Company.  I would have been happy if it had to be repeated.

After intermission, we got the Bay Area  premiere of Robert Battle’s 1999 solo, Takademe, recited by Sheila Chandra, the Indo-English pop singer.  Chandra’s recitation of the bols, or memetic sounds exchanged between drummers, between drummers and dancers, is one bang up tour de force, going beyond the usual limits of Kathak dancers with their musicians.

The dancer attempting the marathon was Kirven James Boyd, utilizing arms, elbows, knees, hips and head, as well as his athletic body keeping apace with the punishing rapidity of sound.  Audience as well as dancer gasped at the conclusion.

Following a brief pause six men swaggering in black garments lined with scarlet, nude to the waist, brought their rhythmic and tribal ancestry to the drumming of Les Tambours du Bronx in The Hunt. The Tambours, a 17-musician French ensemble, utilize 225 litre monostress drums, noted for resonance and flexibility; the drummers started in the railroad town of Varennes-Vauzelles in1987; their title Bronx is  taken from the town’s square street patterns lined with dark houses.

Except for a certain metallic quality, the unrelenting rhythms inspired the feeling of hunter/warriors reveling in their prowess, energy, celebrating the zenith of their powers,. captivating the audience.

Following the second intermission came the company’s signature Revelations, if anything topping Tuesday’s rendition, the men at a particular high. Black Pride isn’t just a label, it is demonstrably a fact with Revelations.

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