“Taking a stand means taking a seat to see something that represents the best of humanity”
—Robert Battle, Artistic Director and native Miamian
Tension. It suffocates many of us. We all feel it. Pushing us forward, holding us back. The anxious, tight space of some foreboding, some looming over us in the future or in the past. It is a space filled with energy. Harnessing it is a feat, but once accomplished, powerful and moving.
This weekend’s performance of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater did just that – used the energy from the spaces between the music, between the dancers, between our ideas of is and should be – to create a profound illustration of what CAN be. Three acts in total, seemingly isolated in time, style and execution, yet all inextricably wound with the tension of the individual and their role in society.
Stack-Up, choreographed in 1982 by the renowned Talley Beatty, is a disco-funk study of cliques and how an individual can get lost amidst the hustle. Groups of satin-slicked dancers weave in, out and about each other as the central figure – a tall, handsome and quite strapping young man played by Jamar Roberts, is left out and alone. Having not the use of words but the endless myriad of movement and expression, one gets the sense that “handsome and popular” does not keep one warm on a crisp evening. A second facet of this lively piece is of a young couple, attractive and in love, torn apart by the rigors of addiction. Expertly interpreted by Yannick Lebrun and Constance Stamatiou, we are afforded an intimate view into the confusion and dissonance that addiction carries.
Victoria, a product of Gustavo Ramirez Sansano of San Fulgencia, Spain, is an abrupt shift to an industrial, futuristic winter. The music, eerie and shrill, is part score from Hitchcock’s The Birds and part overture from Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony. Dancers succeed across the stage recapitulating a jerking, feverish set of gyrations, oddly matched to the uncomfortable sounds of the composition. In unison and in dissonance, each trapped in the repetition, we sense their angst and question our own. The dance is a study of the agitated rhythms we all follow in our modern day lives and how they sequester us from each other, and from ourselves.
Finally, in a welcome and impressive close, Revelations, Alvin Ailey’s magnum opus choreographed in 1960, takes us through the solemn and candid trials of the slave experience to the whimsical jubilation of assimilation with the establishment. Simplicity in sound, color and movement, coupled with selected hymns, add gravitas to the solemnness of this piece. It is a true ode to the journey of a people through the strain of exile and slavery … and jubilant testament to their triumphs.
In a world where the horrors of violence and intolerance continue to mount, a peaceful evening amongst fellow theater goers is just the salve we all need to restore a bit of hope in the goodness and beauty in each of us. The performances by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater accomplish just that in spades, offering a welcome moment of quite amity shared by all in the Ziff Ballet Opera House.