To watch the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater rehearsing on stage is to observe a well-oiled machine.
With a cast of more than 30 dancers, the ensemble is one of the largest and longest-standing dance troupes in the world. Now in its 54th season, the company remains a source of inspiration for dancers and dance lovers, regardless of age, nationality or background.
At the end of this month, the Ailey Company will return to Israel for one week of performances in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Their stop in the nation’s capital will be a quick one, with one performance scheduled at the Jerusalem Theater. Following that, the powerhouse production will go to the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center for a week of shows. This visit further strengthens the troupe’s relationship with Israel, which has brought them here on nearly every international tour in recent years.
For its 2012 engagement, the Ailey Company will present three different programs, consisting of both old and new pieces. In Jerusalem, the program will include three works by the company’s legendary late artistic director, Alvin Ailey – Streams, Night Creature and Revelations – and two works by the current artistic director Robert Battle –Unfold and In/Side.
Their time in Tel Aviv will be divided into two programs. Program A will include Arden Court by Paul Taylor, Home by Rennie Harris and Revelations.
Program B consists of Memoria and Revelations by Ailey and Takademe and The Hunt by Battle.
Battle took up the reins as artistic director of the company in July 2011. He is the third person to ever lead the world-class troupe, having taken over from Judith Jamison upon her retirement from the position. Prior to his appointment to this prestigious role, Battle was the artistic director of his own company, Battleworks, for which he choreographed Takademe and The Hunt.
Part of his initiative as the new leader of Ailey has been to weave these bits of his former creative life into the rich fibers of the company. In addition, Battle is responsible for reviving several works of Ailey’s that had been left out of the current repertoire. For one, he returned Streams. This unusual work of Ailey’s is perhaps less narrative than his more popular pieces such as Revelations. The dancers enter and exit the stage in various interludes, performing solos and duets with fluidity and grace. The piece premiered in 1970 and was restaged in 2011 as part of Battle’s inaugural season.
Another extraordinary part of the program is Rennie Harris’s Home. Harris is a hip-hop choreographer whose charisma and composition brought him into Judith Jamison’s awareness. In 2004, at Jamison’s request, Harris contributed one of the three sections of Love Stories. The other two choreographers were Jamison and Battle. Then, in 2011, Battle invited Harris back to create Home. The piece was inspired by poems, stories and images that were submitted by people living with or affected by AIDS to the Bristol-Myers Squibb Fight HIV Your Way contest.
The premiere was held on December 1, which is both World AIDS Day and the date that Alvin Ailey passed away of AIDS-related complications in 1989. Home is deeply personal and visually stunning.
Naturally, Revelations is a major draw for audience members to return to the Ailey Company’s performances.
Hailed as a seminal American work of art, Revelations is a tribute to African- American culture from slavery to spirituality to freedom. The piece has been consistently on stage since 1960, two years after Ailey boldly established his ensemble in New York City. The harmony of movement, powerful gospel music and joy bursting through each vignette are well worth a first, second, third or fourth viewing.
The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will perform at the Jerusalem Theater on September 29 at 8:30 p.m.
For tickets, visit www.jerusalemtheater.co.il. The company will perform at TAPAC from October 2-6. For tickets, visit www.israel-opera.co.il.