Alvin Ailey, American Dance Theater City Center, New York
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In a programme that mixed new and old works, two golden oldies stood out. Yet whatever the Ailey dancers are given to do, be it the visual ting-tong of Karole Armitage’s new Gamelan Gardens or the exuberant inventiveness of Twyla Tharp’s The Golden Section (a self-contained piece, part of her full-length l965 The Catherine Wheel), they dance with such commitment that nothing is ever quite awful.
Two new pieces, Uri Sands’ dangerously titled Existence Without Form and Armitage’s Gamelan Gardens, seemed cut from the same flimsy cloth. A meandering dance set to Lou Harrison’s Double Concerto for Violin, Cello with Javanese Gamelan, Armitage’s piece had costumes resembling trendy nightwear and choreography that bore little relevance to “Elephant Ears”, “Stampede” and “The Park”, as the sections were titled. Starting with a punchy pas de deux for Courtney Brenè Corbin and Glenn Allen Sims, it soon became a swingabout with stop-freeze moments of classicism dissolving into less structured movement.
The Sands’ piece to Christian Matjas’ commissioned piano score, not unmelodic but not quite tuneful either, existed rather less than its title suggested, with everyone performing initially facing upstage, in a perpetual motion of wheeling, plunging and turning.
An eye-catching finale with a tangle of four men interweaving with convoluted ingenuity brought the choreography into focus. John Butler’s terse and moving Portrait of Billie [Holliday] is a little masterpiece, offering Corbin a chance to show her dramatic abilities as the doomed singer, managing to be both elegant and pitiful. Tharp’s splashy, energetic piece to David Byrne’s music and occasional throaty singing has the type of high-energy choreography that allows the Ailey dancers to fizz and bubble like uncorked champagne: an upbeat, if exhausting, 15 minutes of sheer glitter.
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