The Village Voice 23 Apr 1970English

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I don’t know where the dancers in Alvin Ailey’s American Dance Theater get their energy. No matter how tired or dispirited or under par they may be, they always burst onto the stage like a pride of lean lions that haven’t been thrown a Christian in God knows how long. They run with the movement -fierce, but with the ease that comes from sureness of one’s own power. They rarely just execute choreography; they deliver it to the audience gift-wrapped.

They’re all in fine form over at the Brooklyn Academy right now. Judith Jamison, Consuelo Atlas, Michele Murray, Linda Kent, Renée Rose, Sylvia Waters, Dudley Williams. Kelvin Rotardier - the ones we know and love - are there. The batch of newcomers includes John Parks, whose long, almost fragile, arms and legs and angular face help make him a fine Daedalus in Lucas Hoving’s Icarus. Best of all, Miguel Godreau bas rejoined the company. He’s one hell of a dancer – small and strong, but not at all stocky the way some short dancers are. He often projects a slightly sinister mischievousness. As Icarus, the set of his head and other small emphases subtly flaw the character’s innocence with a touch of greed. Interesting, I thought.

The company’s repertory includes works by quite a few different choreographers. Now Ailey himself has made a new work called Streams, and I think its one of the best best he’s done recently. The music, by Miloslav Kabelac, a 20th century Polish composer, sounds a little like some of Hovhaness’s Orient-influenced fantasies. Ailey picks up this quality in a series of quiet deliberate processionals, skating steps with the other leg raised behind in attitudes reminiscent of Cambodian or Thai dancing. Interspersed solos and duets are built around contrasting moods or dynamics. A very formal sort of piece.

Ailey has always been an extremely stylish choreographer. Two of his most prominent characteristics interest me, because they are a source of great pleasure, but also of annoyance. One is his heavy reliance on unison dancing, and unison dancing set evenly and symmetrically into the stage space. It is one of the secrets of the beauty of Revelations; in that dance, the clean-edged patterns have the stylish charm of primitive paintings. And unison work, of course, gives a phrase of movement tremendous power and emphasis; the dancers temporarily surrender their individual feelings to project an image of dancing beyond what any one of them could express. Too much unison seems boring and even bothersome to me these days, however, and it can easily look crass as well as hokey. For me, therefore, the finale of Streams leaves an unpleasant taste - a sock-it-to-‘em Broadway chorus that shamelessly wraps up the dance and bats it across the pit to make the crowd howl.

The other thing Ailey does that can be good or bad depending on context has to do with rhythm. He seizes on the pulse of the music and drives it along in rich, spacious movement. It keeps you on the edge of your seat. But every now and then you wish he’d use a little stillness for contrast, or be a little more strange with rhythm.

Streams has some other lovely sections in addition to the expansive opening procession. There’s a wonderful solo for Consuelo Atlas; it’s meditative, but with some surprising angles and twists to it. There’s also a beautiful slow twining and touching section for pairs of dancers (no unison either) that fills the stage with a soft, unhasty sensuality.

Some sections may have been less exciting from a choreographic point of view. But even when Ailey isn’t doing his best choreography, he always creates dancing - that is, he makes something that the dancers can tear away with, delighting you by their spirit and beauty.