By Walter Rutledge
The Ailey II 2012 season began on Wednesday April 18 at the Ailey Citigroup Theater located in the Joan Weill Center For Dance at located at 405 W. 55th Street at the corner of 9th Avenue.
The company is presenting two programs entitled Modern Moves and Contemporary Choices for a total of fourteen performances. The Modern Moves program includes Echoes by Vietnamese born choreographer Thang Dao, Boulevard by South Korean choreographer Mina Yoo and Reference Point by Ailey II Artistic Director Designate Troy Powell.
Leonardo da Vinci stated, “Simplicity is the ultimate elegance.” Echoes by choreographer Thang Dao has a quiet thoughtfulness. The work is as evocative as a ripple on a still pond.
The fluid quality of Echoes, developed with an increased intensity in each section. This consistency provided a strong sense of choreographic cohesiveness. His effective use of subtle shifts of movement and structure transformed a repeated phase into a language, making Dao’s approach inventive and never redundant.
An ensemble section, which featured endless cascading lifts executed by the entire group of dancers, was extremely effective. The seamless partnering extended beyond the female performers and the imagery produced powerful individual movement statements by the dancers. The final section featured a version of Pacabell’s Canon. It reinforced Dao’s ability to make very profound statements without choreographic “pomp and circumstance”, and still produce a visually stimulating conclusion.
The Boulevard began with an urban minimalism. Choreographer Mina Yoo utilized upper body movement, gesture and vocal utterances to establish an inner city world that cleverly reflects diversity and multiculturalism. It is not just a Westside Story; to the contrary it is an eastside, westside, uptown, downtown paean to the solidarity of youth.
The work was originally choreographed for nine men. In this version the cast is comprised of six men and three women. Yoo’s new rendition has some tension and interaction between the sexes, which has extended the work.
The initial sections establish movement groupings with distinct qualities that remain identifiable throughout the work. The solo performed by Yusaku Komori displayed a high degree of control; his high extensions and sustained movements were in contrast to the opening section. The trio featuring Slim Mello, Major Nesby and Thomas Varvaro was fast paced and athletic. Solomon Dumas and Collin Heyward were combative and acrobatic in the duet.
There was a youthful playfulness that was evident throughout. This was especially apparent in the sections that utilized soccer balls and a basketball. At one point the dancers stood in a circle passing the soccer balls, making the primary movement the balls arching paths. Yoo’s use of vernacular dance and street swagger also contributed to the playful nature of a youthful boulevard.
Ailey II Artistic Director Designate Troy Powell’s Reference Point is a tour de force from the opening section. The work was constructed in five sections and showcased the talents of the company. Powell displayed a strong theatrical sense in the work this was evident in the unexpected onstage costume addition for the female solo performed by Fana Testagiorgis.
Testagiorgis organic use of her arms conjured images of a majestic bird. The port de bra and upper body deportment deliberately emanated from her center and radiated through her spine then extremities. Even when performing extended movement or creating sculptural shape the movement retain this arresting quality.
The duet featuring Major Nesby and Collin Heyward had a tribal feeling. Although the dancers did make physical contact the section felt more like two solos than a traditional duet. Both dancers executed multiple turns and pirouettes, and crystalline batterie.
The work had a climatic build and in the finale Powell revisited themes he had developed earlier. Dancers seamed to explosively leave the safety of the ensemble unison to execute virtuoso passages of movement. Attacking with an assuredness and bravura that resonated with the audience.
The second week of the Ailey II spring season continues on Wednesday April 25. Contemporary Choices will be offered on Wednesday April 25 at 8pm, Friday, April 27, at 8pm and Saturday, April 28, at 8pm. You can see Modern Moves on Thursday, April 26, at 8pm, Saturday, April 28, at 3pm, Sunday, April 29, at 3pm and Sunday, April 29, at 7pm.
Tickets can be purchased at the box office located at the Joan Weill Center for Dance and online. For more information, box office hours and to purchase tickets online, visit www.alvinailey.org, www.ovationtix.com or call 866-811-4111.
In Photo: 1) Echoes cast 2) Echoes cast 3) Boulevard cast 4) Yusaku Komori 5) Major Nesby and Collin Heyward
Eduardo Patino photographer