Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has toured through Chicago countless times, featuring new ensemble members and even new Artistic Directors along the way. However, the one constant is, and seems like it always will be, Revelations. Alvin Ailey’s 57-year-old piece acted as the third act in this 2017 tour, and on Wednesday, March 22, as the curtains rose on this final segment in the Auditorium Theatre, the audience roared with applause.
Auditorium Theater Hosts Alvin Ailey’s Company
This year’s tour features four programs of material. On Wednesday, March 22, the ensemble shared: Deep, choreographed by Mauro Bigonzetti, Walking Mad, choreographed by Johan Inger, Ella, choreographed by current Artistic Director Robert Battle, and finally, Revelations, choreographed by Founding Artistic Director Alvin Ailey.
The progression of the evening was lovely. Each of the pieces are distinct in their own way, and showcases a different skill set of the dancers. Ailey’s choreography in Revelations emphasizes the vibrant energy of the company through flowing movement, while Ella features a duet dancing in quick, staccato movement, creating more jagged shapes with their bodies. Bigonzetti’s stunning couples’ choreography in Deep forces the dancers to play with balance and weight-sharing between the pairs, while Inger explores a theatrical approach to Walking Mad that invites the audience to interpret a story within the male soloist’s journey.
Johan Inger’s Walking Mad
With Inger as both Choreographer and Scenic Designer, Walking Mad was the one dance in the program to have a physical set. Inger utilized a wooden wall that could move about the space, and he uses this piece to add levels to add depth to the choreographer. At any moment, a dancer could climb the wall, or even walk through a hidden door, which added an exciting element with which the dancers could play.
One such moment is towards the end of the piece, which is a duet between a man and a woman. The couple shares moments throughout Walking Mad with just the two on stage, and in their final moments, the two finally interact and dance together. Inger’s choreography is beautiful in this moment, and the couple shares a lovely stage chemistry, until the man finally runs away and to the top of the wall. In the final moment, he jumps, leaving the woman alone on stage until the lights black out. The moment was heartbreaking to watch unfold, and the use of the wall added drama to the already tense moment within the choreography.
Alvin Ailey’s Revelations
While each of the programs during the tour’s stay in Chicago showcased different pieces, Revelations remained a constant. Despite that, this 36-minute dance was the most energetic of the evening, and the dancers never seemed to lose that excitement.
Revelations is comprised of three main sections – “Pilgrim of Sorrow,” “Take Me to the Water,” and “Move, Members, Move,” each distinct in their movement and aesthetic. While “Pilgrim of Sorrow” is slower and cloaked in darker, brown costumes and lighting, “Take Me to the Water” is bright, with the dancers dressed in pure white and a lighting design filled with blues and purples. “Move, Members, Move” concludes with the entire company on stage, dressed in warm colors of orange and yellow, and filling the stage with a sense of happy community.
Ailey’s piece serves as the perfect conclusion to the program. While the dancers showcased lovely stage presence throughout the evening, nothing compared to the true joy that radiated off from the stage at the end of “Move, Members, Move.” After the company bowed, they even led an encore – inviting the audience to clap along with them as they danced about the stage to the gospel music arranged by Howard A. Roberts.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s tour ended on Sunday, March 26, 2017, but the season is certainly not over for the Auditorium Theatre! Keep an eye out for what’s up next on their calendar.
Closed on March 26, 2017
Run Time: 2 hours, with two intermissions
Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University
50 E Congress Pkwy
About the Author:
Lauren Katz is a freelance director and dramaturge, and new to the Chicago Theatre Scene. She recently moved from Washington DC, where she worked with Mosaic Theater Company of DC in Company Management, as well as directed around town with various theaters.