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Talent and grace make Alvin Ailey amazingly enjoyable


Presented by The Bank of Boston Celebrity Series.

Wang Center for the Performing Arts.

April 22-28.

By Audrey Wu
Staff Reporter

In the course of my four-year stint here at MIT, the Wang Center has taken the place of the movie theater that I frequented as a high school student. Still, the ennui that familiarity so often breeds has yet to find me; there is something about the gilded opulence of the Wang Center and the rich repertoire of works that are performed there that make each visit one that I always look forward to with excited anticipation. I never leave disappointed.

My visit to the Wang Center on Wednesday night for a performance by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater was by no means an exception. I could attribute the amazingly enjoyable experience I had to a number of outside factors - the long-anticipated emergence of spring, the excellent company I was in, the prime seats we were lucky enough to obtain for only $12 - but it was the exceptionally talented dancers and the vivid, expressive choreography that created a truly brilliant performance.

The dance style of the Ailey company is very different from that of classical ballet. The sets and costumes are stark; the emphasis is thus placed on the dancers and the choreography, both of which were nothing less than amazing. Because the choreography is not restricted by a plot, the dancing focuses more on the free expression of abstract ideas and feelings, in contrast to the refined, controlled style of classical ballet. On the Wednesday evening performance that I attended, the Ailey company performed two works: "Riverside," a Boston premiere choreographed by artistic director Judith Jamison, and the more familiar "Carmina Burana," choreographed by John Butler. "Riverside" featured music by Kimati Dinizulu, and the performance was abundant with a joyful spirit that perfectly complemented the lively beat of the music. In sharp contrast, "Carmina Burana" was a much more powerfully performed piece, and I believe this was largely because of the intensity of the music.

Although the choreography was indeed vivid, the most impressive aspect of the performance had its roots in the amazingly talented Ailey dancers. Not only are they incredible athletes, but they approach their dancing with sincere passion and spirit. Alvin Ailey once commented that "dance is from the people and should be given back to the people," and the Ailey dancers have taken that statement to heart. They wholeheartedly expressed their love for dance to an appreciative audience, who rewarded them with a standing ovation on Wednesday evening. And I can't resist adding that the Ailey dancers make up the most impressive collection of unbelievably hard bodies that I've ever seen.

The performances change daily and feature works by several choreographers. Today the program features three works choreographed by Alvin Ailey and a revival of an Ailey classic, "Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder." The program for tomorrow features two Boston premieres, "Riverside" and "Fandango" (choreographed by Lar Lubovitch), in addition to a work choreographed by Alvin Ailey. The program for Sunday features the Boston premieres of "Fathers and Sons" (choreographed by Shapiro and Smith) and "Urban Folk Dance" (choreographed by Ulysses Dove), as well as the famous Ailey signature work, "Revelations."