Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Other Side of the Tracks

Tonight I ventured out of the practice hovel to catch Alvin Ailey do their dance thing over at the Wang Theatre. Thanks to Karen and Marie.

Here's the rundown:

The River - chor. Alvin Ailey

Good, but not stunning. Frankly, nothing in the evening was stunning throughout, but that's a tall order. The lighting decisions in this one were quite well done. The score, by Duke Ellington, was awfully good, but not always well-played by the orchestra on the recording. There were some stunning moments by individuals.

There's an awfully clever scene with a soloist plus company {Riba (Mainstream), I think...} that takes fun jabs at ballet and the regimentation found therein. His interaction with those in the line was quite smart. When he danced with the line, he always had his own less rigid version of the choreography. Brilliant.

The Golden Section - chor Twyla Tharp

This one actually managed to hold my attention throughout. That could be due to its high energy content, but I think some of it is also due to the increased focus from the dancers. David Byrne's music was also quite a pleasure to hear. Keep an eye out for some fantastic jumps and catches.

Revelations - chor Alvin Ailey

Back when this was choreographed (1960), the newness alone probably provide the energy necessary to launch the piece into the audience. These days, the spirituals that comprise the soundtrack are more in the public's ear and less initially moving, I think. The choreography is certainly well done, but infrequently horribly complex (especially considering the piece immediately prior). Such a piece, in my not-so-humble opinion, requires absolute focus and complete investment from the performer. This performance just didn't have either.

Yes, there were moments where the energy level rose to a level the piece needs. Amos J. Machanic, Jr., in fact, sold "I Wanna Be Ready" lock, stock, and barrel. In fact, I'd buy another right now. The investment from the performers seemed to be lower on the larger company numbers. They seemed to be energized only during the small encore. Perhaps because they were going home?

It must be difficult to perform the same repertoire year after year. I'm sure that I'll run into this myself, but I haven't run anything into the ground yet. I'm still excited when I see Beethoven 9 on a schedule. Due to my experience playing the piece, I'm more apprehensive about physical exhaustion than I am about being able to give it the proper focus. Hopefully I can revisit this same question in 30 years and still say that I'm excited about my 20th cycle of Tchaikovsky 5 or Pictures at an Exhibition.

Something I noticed tonight: At no point did the choreography venture into the ugly. This is an are that we hear in music from this era (roughly 1960-1983), but I didn't see anything objectionable in these three pieces. I saw times of turbulence, but nothing that veered into the unpleasant. Is this just because of the specific program of the evening? I'm sure that someone, somewhere is choreographing some of the ugliness that we see and feel in our lives. Is a company like Ailey helping to bring forth that kind of art too? Some people only want art to bring them the beautiful to escape from the ugly. Do City Ballet, Ballet Theatre, Boston Ballet, and numerous other companies feel this way? How about their Boards of Directors? I wonder if they'd let an Artistic Director get away with much grit in a season.

Between tonight's diatribe and editing a friend's bio over the phone, I'm tapped out. Goodnight Cleveland.


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