Review by Amanda Runge
April 22, 2017
In March of 1958 the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater was born. Dedicated to performing works not only choreographed by founder Alvin Ailey but also those that are in furtherance of the mission to “build an extended cultural community which provides dance performances, training and education, and community programs for all people…using the beauty and humanity of the African-American heritage and other cultures to unite people of all races, ages and backgrounds.” Every year the Alvin Ailey comes to Chicago and visits the Auditorium Theater. Built in 1889 and coated in 24 carat gold the theater sparkles in the lights every time you enter it. It’s a beautiful and historic venue that set the stage for a night filled with exceptional dance.
The first piece was a Chicago premiere entitled Deep choreography by Mauro Bigonzetti and music by Ibeyi. It started with three women framed in light. Strong, and standing alone their bodies were highlighted by the light showing off their incredibly athleticism. The piece continued as a series of trios and duets that spoke to both individual strength and sexuality. The music stylistically ranged from R & B to more indie rock pieces laced with heavy percussion. The dance was strong, with fluid movements grounded into the beat.
While the first piece of the show was raw emotion the second was far more theatrical. Walking Mad, choreography by Johan Inger and Music by Maurice Ravel and Arvo Pärt, brought the audience from happiness and revelry to complete isolation. This piece contained elements of a more classical style. Long lines and beautiful pirouettes. The set was used as a wonderful prop both dividing the dancers and then enclosing them together. The costumes were plain, but used well to describe the drab feeling.
Ella was the third piece, choreography by Robert Battle and music by the one and only Ella Fitzgerald. This was a short and powerful duet. Just as Ella’s voice mimicked the sound of instruments so did the dancer’s bodies. The physical movements accentuated the percussive tones being uttered by Ms. Fitzgerald.
The final piece was the Alvin Ailey’s iconic Revelations first produced in New York City, New York on January 31, 1960. The piece was just that, iconic, strong, and stunningly beautiful. Set to traditional gospel music it highlighted the talented dancers and the meaningful story they portrayed.
To say this was a moving performance is an understatement. Everything about the night was gorgeous, the dancing and the music, the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater did not disappoint.
ALVIN AILEY AMERICAN DANCE THEATER RETURNS TO THE AUDITORIUM THEATRE MARCH 22-26 FOR SIX PERFORMANCES FEATURING THREE CHICAGO PREMIERES
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater brings four new programs to the Auditorium Theatre for six shows March 22-26, showcasing the company’s diverse style that blends ballet, modern dance, jazz, and African dance techniques. The company also presents two student matinees to K-12 groups on Thursday, March 23, and Friday, March 24.
Led by Artistic Director Robert Battle, the company presents Chicago premieres of three new works: Deep by Mauro Bigonzetti, set to the music of rising global music stars Ibeyi; r-Evolution, Dream. by long-time company member Hope Boykin, inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. and set to narration by Tony Award winner Leslie Odom, Jr. (Hamilton) and original music by Ali Jackson (Jazz at Lincoln Center); and Untitled America, a work by MacArthur Fellow Kyle Abraham that examines the impact of incarceration on African American families.
This season, the company aims to exemplify how the arts and social movements can connect to be a vehicle for change. Many of the works Ailey will perform in Chicago shine a spotlight on social issues – from r-Evolution, Dream. and Untitled America to a new production of Alvin Ailey’s Masekela Langage, which draws parallels between violence in 1960s Chicago and the South African apartheid.
The company also will perform pieces new to its repertory, including Johan Inger’s Walking Mad and Robert Battle’s Ella, which celebrates the birth centennial of Ella Fitzgerald. Other works in the Chicago programs include Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain Pas de Deux, Billy Wilson’s The Winter in Lisbon (honoring the birth centennial of Dizzy Gillespie), and Battle’s In/Side.
Each performance will close with Alvin Ailey’s must-see masterpiece Revelations, which has been seen by more people around the world than any other modern work.
“It is an honor to be the Chicago home of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater,” says Tania Castroverde Moskalenko, Auditorium Theatre CEO. “We are looking forward to the company’s return to our landmark stage as they continue nearly half a century of tradition with programs that are incredibly powerful, timely, and captivating.”
“Now more than ever, I’m proud to use dance to unite and uplift. For over four decades the Ailey company has been welcomed to the stage of the Auditorium Theatre for an exchange with Chicago audiences that celebrates our common humanity,” says Robert Battle, Alvin Ailey Artistic Director. “This season, Ailey’s renowned dancers will bring to life premieres that hold a mirror up to society, showcase daring choreographic voices, and pay tribute to the jazz legends Dizzy Gillespie and Ella Fitzgerald on their birth centennials with the marriage of modern dance and jazz – America’s two original art forms.”
In addition to the performances, media is also invited to cover the Revelations workshop ahead of the opening night performance. Alvin Ailey dancers will teach workshop attendees signature movements from Revelations. Please contact Lily Oberman at [email protected] or by phone at 312.341.2331 if you plan to cover the workshop.
NIB FOUNDATION – Dance Sponsor | The PRIVATEBANK and THE ROBERT THOMAS BOBINS FOUNDATION – Student Matinee Sponsors | AVISON YOUNG – Opening Night Sponsor | This presentation is supported by the ARTS MIDWEST TOURING FUND, a program of ARTS MIDWEST that is funded by the NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS, with additional contributions from ILLINOIS ARTS COUNCIL and THE CRANE GROUP.
After the Rain Pas de Deux – Tony Award winner Christopher Wheeldon’s dreamlike male-female duet set to Estonian composer Arvo Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel.
Deep (CHICAGO PREMIERE) – A new work by Mauro Bigonzetti, set to the music of rising global music stars Ibeyi (twin sisters who sing in both English and Yoruba).
Ella (CHICAGO COMPANY PREMIERE) – Artistic Director Robert Battle’s tribute to the legendary Ella Fitzgerald, performed by Ailey in Chicago for the first time in celebration of the centennial of Fitzgerald’s birth. Set to the song “Airmail Special.”
In/Side – Set to Nina Simone’s haunting rendition of the Oscar-nominated song “Wild is the Wind,” Robert Battle’s In/Side offers audiences an intimate look at a man’s most private struggles.
Masekela Langage (NEW PRODUCTION) – Alvin Ailey’s theatrical work from 1969, drawing parallels between South African apartheid and the race-induced violence of Chicago in the 1960s, set to the driving music of trumpeter and composer Hugh Masekela.
Night Creature (STUDENT MATINEES) – First premiered in 1974, a signature ballet by Alvin Ailey that celebrates the joyful, kinetic music of jazz legend Duke Ellington.
Revelations – Alvin Ailey’s must-see American masterpiece uses African American spirituals, song-sermons, gospel songs, and holy blues to fervently explore the places of deepest grief and holiest joy in the soul.
r-Evolution, Dream. (CHICAGO PREMIERE) – Veteran company member Hope Boykin – inspired by the sermons and speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and a company visit to the Center for Civil and Human Rights – created this large ensemble work, which melds creative storytelling with music by Ali Jackson (from Jazz at Lincoln Center) and writings narrated by Tony Award winner Leslie Odom, Jr. (Hamilton).
Untitled America (CHICAGO PREMIERE) – Choreographed by MacArthur Fellow Kyle Abraham, Untitled America examines the impact of the prison system on African American families, set to soul, ambient, and electronic music mixed with spoken word narration by those affected.
Walking Mad (CHICAGO COMPANY PREMIERE) – Johan Inger’s work for nine dancers, a daring contemporary take on Ravel’s Bolero.
The Winter in Lisbon (NEW PRODUCTION) – Billy Wilson’s 1992 work pays tribute to jazz great Dizzy Gillespie, evoking an atmosphere in which the dancers challenge, tease, and pursue romance against a backdrop of rhythm and color. The company is performing the piece this season in celebration of the centennial of Gillespie’s birth.
Performance and Ticket Information
Wednesday, March 22 | 7:30PM Deep / Walking Mad / Ella / Revelations
Thursday, March 23 | 7:30PM r-Evolution, Dream. / Masekela Langage / After the Rain Pas de Deux / Revelations
Friday, March 24 | 7:30PM The Winter in Lisbon / Untitled America / In/Side / Revelations
Saturday, March 25 | 2PM The Winter in Lisbon / r-Evolution, Dream. / Revelations
Saturday, March 25 | 8PM Deep / Walking Mad / Ella / Revelations
Sunday, March 26 | 3PM The Winter in Lisbon / r-Evolution, Dream. / Revelations
Tickets start at $33, and are available online at AuditoriumTheatre.org, by phone at 312.341.2300, or in person at the Auditorium Theatre Box Office (50 E Congress Parkway). Discounts available for groups of 10+.
Thursday, March 23 | 11AM Night Creature (excerpt) / Revelations
Friday, March 24 | 11AM Night Creature (excerpt) / Revelations
Please find more information on the Auditorium’s Student Matinee programs at AuditoriumTheatre.org.
About The Auditorium Theatre
The Auditorium Theatre, located at 50 E Congress Pkwy in Chicago, is an Illinois, not-for-profit organization committed to presenting the finest in international, cultural, community and educational programming to Chicago, and to the continued restoration and preservation of the National Historic Landmark.
The Auditorium Theatre 2016-17 Season is made possible in part with support from the MacArthur Foundation, the Illinois Arts Council, and the Palmer House Hilton. For more information about programming, volunteer and donor opportunities or theatre tours, call 312.341.2310 or visit AuditoriumTheatre.org. For a complete listing of events at the Auditorium Theatre, please click here.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, photos by Paul Kolnik | Auditorium Theatre, photo by Tatyana Perreault