Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre are a revolution that broke boundaries and changed the perception of American dance. The company have grown remarkably to become world-renowned since their first performance back in 1958, where Alvin Ailey and a group of African-American modern dancers took the dance world by storm.
They are a company of unique and flawless dancers, interjected with culture, rhythm and blues. The critically acclaimed company are now touring the nation.
Opening with Lift, a heavy tribal piece choreographed by Aszure Barton, it is an opening that sets the tone for the entire production. Beginning with a male-only sequence, set to surging drums which is echoed through their powerfully striking movement. Their sculpted bodies ripple through the sound, which is lit exquisitely by Burke Brown’s lighting design, capturing the shadows and highlights. As the women emerge on stage, their layering of movement is an organic reaction to the complex beats of the percussion. Boasting ceremonial and tribal movement, the dancers stomp and pulsate to create a performance that mirrors a ritual.
The company’s second piece, Four Corners, is rich with character and flavour. Choreographed by Ronald K. Brown, the performance has a huge African infliction. With the use of brass instruments, it creates an utterly soulful piece. The jazzy undertones in the music create a contemporary performance that touches on the traditional cultural dances. Gospel-style preaching is introduced into the piece which reinforces the core themes of the production. The movement itself is strong and forceful, despite maintaining fluidity and freedom.
The stand-out piece of the evening was Rachel McLaren’s performance of Cry, choreographed by Alvin Ailey himself. “For all the Black women everywhere – especially our mothers.” It is an emotionally charged piece as McLaren oozes passion through her movement, all the way down to her fingertips. During the opening of the piece it feels as if she is trapped, stuck and restricted she begins to cry desperately for help. Dressed in flowing white, with a long white scarf draped across her, she begins to emulate her feelings through her flowing yet potent movement.
Her soft and poetic movement tells a story. It is a lyrical performance that conveys the journey of a woman, as she breaks free from her struggles to become empowered and strong. The sudden shift in dynamics switches from the slow desperation to a rhythmic triumph. It is both a visually and emotionally stunning performance.
Alvin Ailey have explored the suffering and hardship that black woman had to endure. As we see McLaren’s connection to the poignancy of the story, this is elevated as she gets a glimpse of freedom and liberty. Manipulated through her movement, there is a strong release of energy that symbolises the ecstatic gratitude as she embraces her freedom through pure joy and happiness.
Mirroring the story of her journey from slavery to freedom, the final piece in the production is Revelations, choreographed by Alvin Ailey. Displayed through a suite of dances, the company convey the stages black people went through to achieve freedom. Opening on a dark stage, dressed in beige and brown bellowing sheets, they move in a haze.
As they embark on their journey to freedom, the beat kicks in and the pace builds. Ending in a final celebration, soundtracked to 20th century gospel music. It is as if we are transported to the deep south through a series of expressive dance sequences and uplifting music. Bursting with character and soul, the soulful dance creates an electric energy both on stage and within the audience.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre execute their highly empowering choreography with faultless technique, spectacular style and vivacious expression.
On at the Lowry until the 8th of October, tickets can be found here.
Information on the tour can be found here.