Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and beyond…

I recently attended the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre presentation in Cleveland, Ohio on Sunday, May 6 at the State Theater. It was awesome! A friend and I had discussed going two months previous to the day, but then I got the Sunday jitters and didn’t plan to go. He called me a few hours before the event and asked if I was going. I was chillin! But the thought of not going was making me super anxious. When he called, I was actually pretty happy. He insisted that I go. I immediately got online and purchased a ticket in the balcony for 40 bucks. I was ready and happy and feeling blessed that they even had tickets left! I got dressed, and arrived downtown at exactly 3:00 p.m. That was curtain time! I am always determined not to pay for parking, so I found a spot 2 blocks away, jumped out and ran down to the theater. It only took a minute to grab my ticket from will call and I sat down at 3:08 p.m. It was like they were holding the curtain for me! As soon as I sat my behind in my seat, the lights dimmed and the curtain went up! I just knew I was in for a treat. Timing is everything, so they say, right?

I’m no dancer, so I may not know the correct terminology, but the show opener was a 22 minute long dance that gave definition to modern and  African dance. It was so smooth. The crew had so much energy and love to give to the audience- my heart beat fast. I am so thankful that I didn’t miss this 1st dance because it definitely gave me chills.

I counted 18 dancers- male & female. Might have been more. They wore the clothes that a dancer practices in- loved it (costumes by Jon Taylor). I could see the movement of their limbs and I imagined myself in their positions. I imagined my body moving like theirs. Each dancer was like a mini ocean or a mini stream, flowing, rushing, bringing in tides and tearing down damns. The hip hop undertone of the dance was uplifting. This dance was called “Home,” choreographed by Rennie Harris. Wow Rennie! You are excellent (check out his website). Nina Flagg was the Assistant Choreographer for Home. Much love to Mr. Harris and Ms. Flagg as they produced an awe-inspiring opening dance.


Assistant Choreographer

I understand that Judith Jamison was a collaborative choreographer for this dance. I absolutely love the thought of Judith Jamison. I remember being at Fisk University (where I graduated from in 2006) and seeing a picture of her in a book. It was this one…

I had to have the picture! I took it out the book and tucked it in my bag and went back to my dorm. That wasn’t very honest, but I did it. I had never seen anything like it. I still have it.  By the way Judith attended Fisk for 3 semesters before transferring to a dance academy. She wouldn’t be proud that I took the picture out of the library!

The 2nd dance was performed by a single dancer- Michael Francis McBride. It was totally relevant in a way that was exhilarating. He wore dancer-tight red pants that allowed us to see his every jerk. The music was funky. You might find this track really awkward, but he totally did his thing and made it work. The music reminded me of 80s music- people took lots of risk. It was nice.

The 3rd dance, was comprised of 6 male dancers. It was called the Hunt and choreographed by Robert Battle.

Acclaimed Choreographer

The dancers wore long skirts that resembled a sort-of Japanese warrior attire. It started with an upbeat African track called Jungle Jazz. What a great name! Definitely check out that track. You can only imagine what a dancer would do to this! Jungle Jazz transitioned in another track performed by the same artist called Black Bull. Really great choice of music. It reminded me of a Saul Williams track I heard earlier this year at a Saul Williams concert @ the Grog Shop in Cleveland Hts, OH. Saul has this homemade drum that he rocks with. It’s very creative and it sounds good. Both the dance and the Saul are tribal mixed with funk. Adrenaline rushing!

Saul Williams-Poet Artist

The dance combos were extremely on beat. These men danced for about 12 minutes. They made use of the entire stage The lighting added dimensions to the act. It changed about 8 times during the hunt, each correlating with the movements of the dancers. Great job Burke Wilmore!

Lighting by Burke Wilmore.

What seemed to be the 2nd half of the show, opened on a more spiritual and religious tone. The negro spirituals took me back to my days of sitting in the chapel at Fisk, listening to the Jubilee Singers belt out songs that took a lot training to perform!

A female dancer in all white, Alicia Graf Mack, took the stage in all white performing the dance- Journey. How pleasant was she? Very.

This dance somehow transitioned into a formation reminiscent of a church choir. The dancers were dressed in earth tones of brown, which made them stand out and blend with the lighting. This sort-of contradicting effect was magnificent. It was a vintage look. I believe Nicola Cernovitch was responsible for these lighting effects.

Lighting by Nicola Cernovitch

There was a duet with a male and female dancer that was very strong. They got to show off some very difficult dance moves that the audience loved. A single male dancer in all white took the stage he did the same, performing dance moves that only 10,000 hours of practice would allow.

Form this, props were introduced on the set. The dancers made use of every corner of the stage. They climbed on tops of stools, spun umbrellas, created water by running long blue and white ribbons horizontally across the stage. They ended, dressed in yellow dresses and black suits.

One word can describe this experience- extraordinary. It was strange, teriffic, beyond belief- all traits of true art.

Mr. Ailey’s legend is an amazing experience. I loved to see so many young girls in the audience. It was a performance children could really benefit from seeing insomuch that it showed the professionalism behind art. I got some really great Alvin Ailey paraphenalia from the show and a bag with a picture of the 2012 company members.

These are the shirts I purchased:

2012 Yellow Season Tee AIL-YL-SEASON-TEE

Ailey 2011 Red Logo Tee AIL-RED-LOGO-TEE

And the complimentary bag I received with the purchases:

This performance made me want to go home and watch The Wiz!

By the way, my seat in the balcony was perfect. I sat in Row U, Seat 605. It put me in the center of my row so I could clearly see the stage. I felt like I was meant to be there at that exact time in that exact seat.


Queen Duafe for African Essence