I know Alvin Ailey’s company for a very long time. It was this company and choreographer and the one of another great artist Alwin Nikolais and his ‘Nikolais Dance Theater’ who came in tours in Romania at the beginning of the 70s and opened my eyes and soul to the world of modern dance, starting an interest in this form of art that continues until today.

While Nikolais’ company is gone after the death of his founder, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater founded in 1958 continued the tradition of its founder under the direction of Judith Jamison and is today one of the better known dance companies in the world. I have seen another performance of theirs a few years ago, in a theater on Broadway around the 51th street. Last night was my third opportunity to meet with their art. America changed radically since the company was founded and the world of dance changed as well, pushed ahead by artists like Ailey among other. If in 1958 the idea of a multiracial company was a novelty, as well as the use in modern dance of music and themes descending from the Afro-American tradition, today such groups are to be found almost any place around the world and jazz and gospels and blues and popular American music are an integral part of their creations. While Ailey created many of the performances of the theater, he also raised and opened the stage for many other creators to research, create and express their voices in the company performances. The expressiveness of the body as a whole which Ailey saw and developed starting from Martha Graham‘s style and the freedom that dancers express exposing their own perspective while remaining part of the ensemble, a method driven by Ailey from jazz music had become part of fundamental alphabet of modern dance.

The program last night at the Opera House, closing the fall dance festival in Tel Aviv, included an original creation by Ailey, another classic work from the 70s and two works from the last decade. Luckily I found on youTube fragments of all performances for me to remember and for the readers of the blog to get a glimpse of the wonderful experience that we enjoyed. The success was tremendous, the knowledgeable dance audiences in Israel spoiled with almost everything that modern dance can offer including a hot and innovative local scene know how to appreciate such a combination of high professionalism and attractive programs.

(video source AileyOrganization)

The performance started with one of the recent works of the company – Dancing Spirit created in 2009 by Ronald K. Brown – en exploration of the African roots of the Afro-American music and dance melted in a modern style and ambiance.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tpy3V-lYfKY

(video source danceconsortium)

Suite Ottis was created in 1971 by George W. Faison, a young choreographer at that time who further developed and became a well known creator and founded his own dance company. It’s a tribute to the music of Ottis Redding and a good opportunity of nostalgia for those who love the soul music of the 60s.

(video source AileyOrganization)

The shorter piece named Unfold completed the second part of the performance. It’s a duet on an opera aria which was interesting to watch not only by its own concentrated beauty but also as an indication of the direction the company may take in the future, as the choreographer is Robert Battle who will take over the direction of the company in the summer of 2011.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DT8SX35m0lU

(video source andithankyou2)

The last part of the performance included the classic creation of Ailey Revelations. When created in 1960 it was one of the first pieces in the history of American dance to bring directly to stage the music and spiritual experience of the Afro-American community. Since then it became a classic and a reference piece, with new generations bringing their own perspective within the framework drawn by Ailey. It certainly is a crowd-pleaser any place in the world where it is presented, and an excellent closing for an evening of modern dance to remember.

The Web site of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater can be accessed at http://www.alvinailey.org/.