City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre (2016), Festival Theatre, Review

By Imogen Rowe - Posted on 19 October 2016

Show Details
Robert Battle (Artistic Director) Judith Jamison (Artistic Director Emerita) Matthew Rushing (Rehearsal Director and Guest Artist)
Hope Boykin, Jeroboam Bozeman, Sean Aaron Carmon, Elisa Clark, Sarah Daley, Ghrai DeVore, Solomon Dumas, Samantha Figgins, Vernard J. Gilmore, Jacqueline Green, Daniel Harder, Jacquelin Harris, Collin Heyward, Michael Jackson Jr, Megan Jakel, Yannick Lebrun, Renaldo Maurice, Ashley Mayeux, Michael Francis McBride, Rachael McLaren, Chalvar Monteiro, Akua Noni Parker, Danica Paulos, Belen Pereyra, Jamar Roberts, Samuel Lee Roberts, Kanji Segawa, Glenn Allen Sims, Linda Celeste Sims, Constance Stamatiou, Jermaine Terry, Fana Tesfagiorgis

For a long time the name Alvin Ailey has stirred the admiration of people across the world, and this autumn Edinburgh is lucky to play host to the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater for two precious performances.

The company is a repertory dance company, and as such each performance differs from the previous. They have a repertoire of ten numbers, ranging from classical western dance to hip hop to traditional African style. The dancers are flawless in their artistry, moving with ease from one style to the next and merging several styles at once from various choreographers including Rennie Harris, Christopher Wheeldon and the late Alvin Ailey himself.

It is not purely excellence of dance that makes a performance great; it is the marriage of movement, music and grace that pull all the strings of the tapestry and brush every stroke of the painting. Some are jarring and visceral, some are smooth and illusive. This company performs with such integrity and honesty and such virility that it is impossible not to be moved by it.

At the heart of the company lies the value of self, and a loyalty to the African-American heritage of almost all the dancers. The finale piece Revelations, Ailey’s signature masterpiece, is the same dance as premiered in 1960. It is a dance in sections, using African-American spirituals and period costumes that tap into the heart of the company’s cultural identity and which transcend time and place, regardless of whether this classic is new to its audience or not. All the dances come from the soul; such is the nature of the company, but this piece in particular speaks volumes of Ailey himself and brings his genius and heart into the theatre almost thirty years after his death. There is tremendous loyalty within the company, not only to the original dances – there are pieces in the repertoire that were choreographed in the 1960s and 1970s – but to the values and integrity of its people. In the Edinburgh performances most numbers are UK premiers, a few of which were produced in 2015.

There is a remarkable truth that comes from this company. Dance as a medium is transcendent in many ways theatre is not; there are no words to disagree with only the extraordinary beauty of the dancers and the physical stories they tell. Perhaps it is the heritage of these dancers, perhaps it is the ethos with which they conduct themselves, but they are to be awed in many ways. Particularly in the current climate, it is incredibly affirming to see them in their glory as ambassadors for the United States, and it gives us all hope of the beauty they achieve, and the beauty they are.

This company is one not to be missed. It is as enriching as it is moving, and their 2016 programme is an amalgamation of stunning work that bring audiences to their feet worldwide. It is a celebration and an outlet of feeling, and nobody should miss the opportunity of seeing them dance.

18th and 19th October, 7.30pm