Contemporary Voices: Are You In Your Feelings / For Four / Unfold / Revelations

Choreography Kyle Abraham, Robert Battle, Alvin Ailey
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Sadler’s Wells

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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Kyle Abraham's Are You In Your Feelings Credit: Paul Kolnik
AAADT's S. Dumas, S. Figgins, B. I. Pereyra and R. Maurice in Robert Battle's For Four Credit: Paul Kolnik
AAADT's James Gilmer and Ashley Mayeux in Robert Battle's Unfold Credit: Paul Kolnik
Ailey American Dance Theater in Alvin Ailey's Revelations Credit: Paul Kolnik

In 2019, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AAADT) brought three programmes of dance to Sadler’s Wells, now they return with four programmes. Rereading my enthusiastic reviews of 2019, I wonder what more to add—I love the company’s infectious joie de vivre, alluring sensuality, sinuous musicality. If you need uplift, go see…

A thirty-minute work from 2022 by Kyle Abraham, Are You In Your Feelings, sets up the theme of love that pulsates throughout. A dozen dancers match in movement the blistering colours of the Karen Young designed costumes.

To a jazzy mixtape of soul, R&B and hip hop by various artists, amongst them Lauryn Hill, Drake, Erykah Badu, hinting at a variety of relationship narratives, in all their gender permutations, with knowing wit and rapport, Are You In Your Feelings throbs with emotion.

Wonderful physiques, expressive bodies and duets that are beautiful to watch—two muscular men in tender duet are particularly inspiring. As are the two competitive females, but best of all are Chalvar Monteiro and Ashley Kaylynn Green, fleet and fluid as the playlist.

Artistic Director Robert Battle brings two short numbers, For Four (2021) and Unfold (2007 before he became AD in 2011) that fly by (I’m glad I shall be seeing them again in the 21st Century Creations programme later in the run). They are winningly succinct—about ten minutes each—playful and knowing.

For Four—Wynston Marsalis’s jazz score is in 4/4 time—opens with a solo then becomes a quartet. Full of energy and dazzle and pizzazz, it’s gone before you know it. But what a blast…

Unfold, set to Leontyne Price singing the Depuis le jour aria about the joy of first love from Gustave Charpentier’s Louise opera, is an extended orgasm (well, that’s what my notes say) danced by Ashley Mayeux and Jeroboam Bozeman, whom I was so taken with in 2019.

Both palate cleansers before AAADT’s pièce de resistance, Alvin Ailey’s 1960 gospel homage to his homeland’s sultry south (Nicola Cernovitch’s lighting evoking heat, translated with parasols and fans and flowing movement to eloquent effect), Revelations, and as usual its encore brings the audience to its feet. Such simple faith and rapture.

I shall be seeing it only twice again, as one programme, Modern Masters, seems to be doing without it. One never tires of it. I am again delighted to spot the references to Martha Graham and others in this mix of styles. And wonder how much Pina Bausch borrowed from them, too.

A mix of styles is what AAADT is renowned for, classical and contemporary, modern and even street, performed with exemplary bravura. Never has simply walking taken on such elegance and panache. Or worship looked so physically enticing. Eighteen dancers (out of a company of thirty-two) fill the stage with colour, pattern and strength.

My companion, new to AAADT, is converted. Thirty minutes of ecstasy and a joy that gives sustenance in times of grief. Spiritually and physically uplifted by the ten gospel songs, we step out into London’s ‘tropical’ night with smiles on our faces.

Ten pieces, with some overlap, by Robert Battle, Kyle Abraham, Alvin Ailey, Jamar Roberts, Ronald K Brown and Twyla Tharp, feature across the four shows. They are not to be missed.

Alvin Ailey’s second company, Ailey 2, starts a 12-venue Dance Consortium UK tour on Tuesday 19 September.

Reviewer: Vera Liber

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