By Walter Rutledge
July 7, 2010 marked the beginning of an extensive touring season for Ailey II; the tour will include 49 cities in North America and Europe. The Company is presently enjoying unprecedented popularity, establishing itself as an important modern dance company in it’s own right. On October 5, just eight days after returning from performances in the Northeastern United States, Austria, and France, Ailey II gave an informal studio showing of two new works in the Ailey Citigroup Theater.
The impressive ensemble of twelve performers introduced nine new company members to an enthusiastic audience in the 250-seat theater located in the Joan Weill Center for Dance. The audience was treated to a glimpse of the strong, committed dancing and innovative choreography that will be featured during the Ailey II New York Season, April 6 – 17, 2011 at the Ailey Citigroup Theater. If the studio showing is any indication of the upcoming season, it promises to be an exciting and memorable dance experience.
The two excerpted works were from opposite ends of the modern dance spectrum. Kyle Abraham’s work The Corner is a world premiere choreographed for the company, with music from Common, Frederic Chopin and Donny Hathaway. Shards by Donald Byrd was choreographed in 1998 for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and will be a company premiere in the Ailey II New York Season.
The Corner has a wonderful freshness. The work has the distinct characteristic of echoing back in time while simultaneously leaping into the future. The fusion of established dance techniques, hip-hop and vernacular movement and gesture created a signature movement vocabulary for Abraham.
The duet in the second section spotlighted dancers Kelly Robotham and Renaldo Gardner. Robotham (who joined the company in July) displayed solid technique and was self-assured with an extremely likable stage persona. Gardner was steadfast, and complemented Robotham while maintaining an individual presence. The entire ensemble approached the work with a freedom and ownership; this was especially evident in the use of dialogue (usually a laborious task for mute dancers).
Donald Byrd originally choreographed Shard as a tribute to the late Alvin Ailey. The work illustrates Byrd’s strong sense of chorographic design and craft. Set to a driving original music score by Mio Morales the work immediately propels the audience into a dynamic movement odyssey.
Although an ensemble work, Shards provided many standout moments for the individual dancers. Collin Heyward and Jacqueline Green danced in a literal centrifuge of movement, the partners were the tranquility in the center of a storm. Major Nesby’s effortless jetes and ballon gave him the illusion of flight; and Renaldo Gardner danced an extended solo with great command and quiet intensity.
Ailey II has always been a true hidden treasure. Under the direction of Artistic Director Sylvia Waters and Associate Artistic Director Troy Powell the company has been instrumental in nurturing the talents of many young dancers for professional careers in the performing arts. This season marks another milestone in the 36-year legacy of the company. On October 13 the company continues the tour, which will span a total of eight months ending just four days before their New York Season. We wish the company much continued success and look forward to seeing them in April.
In Photos 1) AileyII with Sylvia Waters and Troy Powell 2) Kelly Robotham and Renaldo Gardner in Kyle Abraham’s The Corner 3) Ailey II in Donald Byrd’s Shards
Photos by Eduardo Patino Video by Jamar Carr