New York, NY
June 12–16, 2013
At right: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Ronald K. Brown's Four Corners. Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy AAADT.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater was back at the Koch Theater for the first time since 2000, dancing the premiere of Ronald K. Brown's Four Corners and other repertory. The choreographer’s blend of African and eclectic New York modern suits the company superbly; his commissions by AAADT remain highlights in an increasingly disparate melange. While its extremes and overall dynamic are less physically ecstatic than Brown’s movement typically achieves, the dance establishes a sense of unwavering spirituality.
The cast was led onstage by Jamar Roberts, forward-bent torso pulsing to Carl Hancock Rux's bass line, walking backward in an attitude of humility and deference.
In a quicker-paced solo, Roberts danced with snap and muscularity. Rachael McLaren moved like silk in phrases that evoked sources ranging from African to Luigi jazz, while Alicia Graf Mack danced with a direct boldness and precision. Her visual engagement was a reminder that Brown makes strategic use of his dancers' gazes. They frequently look into the wings or on a diagonal, so when they do look straight at the audience, it can make a powerful impression.
Belen Pereyra, Linda Celeste Sims, Glenn Allen Sims, and Matthew Rushing in Four Corners.
Photo by Christopher Duggan, Courtesy AAADT.
According to press materials, the work "brings to life the vision of four angels standing on the four corners of the earth holding the four winds." In one section, the four "angels" stood in a circle, facing outward, and danced with Brown's trademark explosive effervescence before neatly forming a line for the finale exit. Omotayo Wunmi Olaiya designed the print and dark-colored pants and tanks for the men; the women wore strappy, circle-skirt dresses and headwraps that unfortunately made it difficult to identify them, as uniform headgear does.
Paul Taylor Dance Company recently moved its big New York season to the Koch; some of the same effects were observed in Ailey's performances. The audio system sounded better than that at City Center, where AAADT will continue to perform in foreseeable Decembers. With the added distance, the dances have room to breathe and are framed better, although in the less intimate environs, the performers seem less heroic. The audience, however, responded just as enthusiastically.