Friday, May 08, 2009

Review: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater with Sweet Honey in the Rock

Tonight I went to see the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater perform at NJPAC with special guests Sweet Honey in the Rock. It was fabulous. One of the best things I've seen in a long time. I love watching dance - ever since I started going to see The Nutcracker when I was little, I've loved dance, and when I saw JCSuperstar at NJPAC last month, and saw the ads for Alvin Ailey, a company I've wanted to see, and saw that they were combining with Sweet Honey in the Rock, already a group I love, I knew I had to go.

The evening started with a film about Alvin Ailey and the company, which is celebrating its 50th year. Then the first dance was "Go in Grace," a story of a family - parents, son, and daughter, through the years. This was the piece accompanied by Sweet Honey in the Rock. I loved how the music, the singers, intertwined with the dancing and dancers. The singers mirrored choreography from the dancers, moved artistically on stage, and weren't simply the background music. They were in integral part of the piece, part of the performance. Striking orange and yellow costumes for the dancers.

The second piece was "Suite Otis," from 1971, with several Otis Redding songs, choreographed by George Faison, choreographer of The Wiz. This was a fun piece, with several sections, great music, and the audience was clapping, cheering, even just at the song selections. It made me want to come home and get myself some Otis Redding mp3s, which I will probably do after I finish this post!

Finally, "Revelations," from 1960, which, according to the program, "has been seen by more people around the world than any other work of dance." Rightly so - it was fantastic. It has three sections, "Pilgrim of Sorrow," "Take me to the Water," and "Move, Members, Move," with ten songs, traditional spirituals. The videos below are both from Revelations. Stand outs were "Fix Me, Jesus," "Wade in the Water," "I Wanna Be Ready," and "Sinner Man." Matthew Rushing and Amos J. Machanic, Jr. were standout dancers here (and in their earlier roles.)

For an extra treat, the "Prelude" music in the theatre lobby before the show was Sweet Plantain, a fabulous string quartet. They have really unique music, a great sound.


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