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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (review): Dance that touches the soul

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Got ready, headed downtown to Jones Hall and to see the Friday night premiere by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater presented by the Society of Performing Arts. Despite never having press pass issues before with any organization, apparently there is a first time for everything. Smaller theaters have not had any issues in making preparations, so such an organization as the Society of Performing Arts not having things in order was quite disappointing. The matter finally being resolved I entered and took my seat to hopefully enjoy the premiere, attempting to ignore the disappointing start. This show only runs for the opening night and two performances today a matinee (2 pm) and evening (8 pm). Audiences that see this group will be blown away and humbled by their dedication to the art and their brilliantly choreographed pieces.

Opening night included three performance pieces entitled: “Grace” (1999), “D-Man in the Waters” (1998; Ailey premiere 2013), and finally closing with a piece called “Revelations”. Each performance will feature at least one alteration, although each performance will close with “Revelations”, which is a signature piece for the company. The dance company is led by Robert Battle in his third season as Artistic Director as it continues to travel the world sharing its beautiful, cultural modern dance pieces. The group was originally founded in 1989 and since its conception has received the highest of honors and has performed in 71 countries and for about 23 million people. It’s quite a privilege to get the chance to see such a widely acclaimed dance company.

“Grace” opened the night in true beauty which set the tone for the pace and expectancy of the night. Choreographed by Ronald K. Brown, this piece visually and masterfully takes the audience on the journey with the performers as they journey to the Promised Land. The skill and dynamics with which each step is gracefully performed and executed is what will draw your eyes to the stage. Although another disappoint of the night was the lack of decorum with which the audience gave the dancers. The overall atmosphere for the dance was a fun, lively, inviting tone, yet many audience members chattered freely and rather loudly amongst themselves disrespecting not only those around them but also the beautiful performers. Ignoring or attempting to ignore the distraction, this piece highlighted some of the amazing dancers of the company and lighting by William H. Grant III helped propel this pieces story. It was beautifully executed and the audience could flow along with each dancer as you watched their struggle.

“D-Man in the Waters” was the next piece choreographed by Bill T. Jones. Moving from the first piece, getting a bit more faster pace, this piece seemed to literally grab the audience’s attention. The dancers were more dynamic and forceful with their movements, creating strong distinctions. Each piece centers around the cultural African American influences although are particularly highlighted in this and of course, the final piece. The dancers create a jovial atmosphere on stage as they visually personify the triumph of the human spirit. Each piece felt a bit more moving than the last and only served to highlight the strengths of the company.

“Revelations” the final piece for each performance, closed the night and got everyone on their feet. This is the signature piece for the company, which culminates together all the strength and beauty of the group. This piece has varying parts which highlights different dancers. “Fix Me, Jesus” danced by Akua Noni Parker and Marcus Jarrell Willis is both a moving and breathtaking piece. They complement each other beautifully as we see the visual strength of the dancer as well as the creation of the story artistically before our eyes. “Wade in the Water” performed by Belen Pereyra, Kirven Douthit-Boyd, and Alicia Graf Mack is moving and tender piece. Simple props and sheets to serve as “water” highlight the artistic brilliance that only complements the story and dancers. The closing “Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham” features the entire company and is a lively, joyous celebration. It is a wonderful way to end the night in every aspect. It brings together the beauty of the dancers and performance, draws in the audience and serves as another cultural focal point to tie up the entire night with a perfect bow.

Today is the closing of the company at Jones Hall yet tickets are still available. The matinee for Saturday features pieces entitled “Another Night”, “In/Side”, “The River” closing again with “Revelations” and Saturday evening the pieces are “Grace”, “Minus 16” and finally “Revelations”. Don’t miss your chance to see this amazing dance company before they are gone. Tickets can be purchased online at www.spahouston.org, by phone at 713-227-4772 or at the courtyard level ticket office at Jones Hall located at 615 Louisiana St.

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