Sunday, December 30, 2012

The Softer Side of the Ailey Company

Akua Noni Parker and Antonio Douthit in Jiri Kylian's 
Petite Mort. Photo: Paul Kolnik
Ailey's dancers always look amazing, but it's good to see them flourishing in choreography that emphasizes subtlety and plush muscularity in addition to flash and dazzle, which is understandably what they get when work is made on the company. Because who wouldn't be tempted to push these copiously talented artists to their limit? 

Part of the craft in making this happen is to select existing repertory, such as Jiri Kylian's Petite Mort, alongside commissions by young talent such as Kyle Abraham, as Artistic Director Robert Battle did this year. Petite Mort (1991) engages viewers immediately with its courtly trappings of tamed swords and stand-alone hoop gowns (by Joke Visser) slid over scant camisoles and trunks. Hypnotic, if familiar, Mozart accompanies Kylian's pleasing, classical modern movement, which emphasizes line, detailed extremities, and the handsome formal arrangements.

This dance has also been performed by ABT, which tells you something about the company's direction. Paul Taylor's Arden Court, now Kylian... the presence of both make sense given the technique at hand, even if it will take time for these dances (especially the Taylor) to become second nature. 
Jacqueline Green with cast in Kyle Abraham's Another Night. Photo: Paul Kolnik

Kyle Abraham, on the other hand, is young, on the rise, and suddenly everywhere. His phrases can consist of quick moves punctuated by a suspended balance, darting and stopping like a hummingbird. He weaves many styles into his premiere, Another Night, and in that respect, also puts to good use the typical sets of skills held by Ailey's company. It feels celebratory, in contrast to the psychological and historical weightiness of Kylian's work. If not the most memorable work, the dancers looked elated.

Ditto for Ronald K. Brown's Grace, in a new production, though I'm not sure what was new other than casting choices and some of the lighting scheme. With Revelations, it remains among the finest repertory. It's no coincidence that both dances vary in dynamic between their numerous sections in terms of music and tempo, and acknowledge both earthy vitality and spiritual transcendence. 

With the retirement of the serene Renee Robinson, it was a pleasure to see newcomer Jacqueline Green channeling some of Robinson's elegance and radiance. Another standout was Sean Carmon, all tensile line in Revelations' "Sinner Man." Alicia Graf Mack and Jamar Roberts continue to be paragons of grace and power, both possessing superb technique in addition to their natural gifts.

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