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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre

Reviewer: Janet Martineau

Venue: Midland Center for the Arts

Five years, we were told.

It took five years to negotiate a performance for the ages in mid-Michigan.
And there they were Tuesday night (April 23)  at Midland Center for the Arts … the prestigious and world renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. 34 dancers and support crew. Two hours. Four numbers. Breathtaking.
Was it worth the wait? An auditorium nearly full of cheering – as in cheering  like they do at hockey games – fans apparently thought so. Including a bus with the insignia Hope College on its side. There were also attendees from Central Michigan University, Ypsilanti, and a group of students from North Carolina spending a few days in Midland.
In the far distant past,  Saginaw and Midland  landed some impressive dance companies, but it has been a long, long time. And Ailey? It is one of the top companies.
One enthusiastic attendee texted me she had been waiting 50 years to see them. Others of us did not have to wait that long. This was the third time for me.
And judging from the reaction of the audience, when the company closed with its signature  “Revelations,” choreographed 64 years ago by Ailey qwhen he was  29 years old, many of us were indeed repeat devotees because we reacted immediately to its images.
Running 36 minutes and featuring 10 gospel, spiritual and blues numbers, it is the  quintessential story of  African Americans as seen through religion. One simply cannot imagine a world without it,  and it is performed endlessly all over the world. One story has described it as “the most widely seen modern dance work in the world.”
Stands out in this production were the ‘Fix Me, Jesus”  duet by Khalia Campbell  and Jermaine Terry and the ending “Rock My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham”  by the entire company.
But there were other more recent numbers, choreographed by others, that made the evening a standout too.
For example, “Me, Myself and You,” created in 2023; a  deeply-romantic classically-infused duet featuring a mirror and dancers Samantha Figgins and Jeroboam Bozeman. The effortless and seamless lifts and other maneuvers by both dancers defied logic on what the human body can or should do. Athletic but also fluid and graceful, like figure skaters used to be.
And “Solo,”  a revised piece also from  2023, a funky and fun trio of competing male dancers  (Chalvar Monteiro, Yannick Lebrun and Patrick Coker) with violin music by Bach. Perhaps it is best described as watching violins dance and prance. Seriously.
What sets the Ailey company apart from other dance troops is: The use of arms and hands and ankles as well as, of course, legs. Creations featuring shapes and tableaus and diagonal lines  and swirling motions. Remarkable costuming, which in one number every piece was different but all coordinated in hues of blue and white. The sparse use sets or props other than a couple of moon and sun projections, the mirrors, a parasol and fabric pieces creating “water.” And most of all the power of its dancers; sensual, spiritual, lithe, conviction, precise, grace and a bunch of other adjectives.
So far 2024 has started out with a bang in the  mid-Michigan arts scene: a national tour of  the award-winning musical “Come From Away” in Midland, violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman in Saginaw and now the elite Ailey dancers. Next?

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