Stage Access Presents EPISODES Dance Review — Capstone to Alvin Ailey Tribute

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Editor’s Note:  Read the related story — “Auditorium Theatre Presents DEEPLY ROOTED DANCE THEATER’s ROOTS & WINGS Review — Top Tier Dance Electricity

For twenty minutes, we are at high noon …

The electronic and percussive sounds of Robert Ruggieri’s score evoke whips, slaps, fists, punches, and all manner of tools in an imagined arsenal of confrontation. Electronic pan pipes surround sound — not with the calming melodies of Andean musicians, but with angry intonations of warring tribes. They seem to be telling the long story of human will encounters. They breathe in as punctuations to the pulsing percussive beat in a long run-on sentence that only breaks in the last minute for the dancers to use their own bodies for an ensemble of percussion.

One after another, we see the dancers come and go from pairings like seething nuclear particles. They attract, collide, and move off with new energies or find themselves in depleted puddles. We lose count of how many permutations of Episodes there are, but they are all speaking about the many confrontations possible when two or more meet with full-frontal will.

Stage Access EPISODES
Choreographer Ulysses Dove explains that it was musings after the loss of a friend that spawned his work EPISODES

We’re almost surprised that the dancers aren’t entirely clad in black leather — only with a leather belt. These costumes seem ready-made for the S&M feel of this music and choreography by Ulysses Dove, in this writer’s view. They help showcase the physical prowess of the entire dance ensemble. Muscles ripple. Sometimes arms ripple. The dancers make rolls over each other. They fly or throw each other up and down. It’s not just the A-Z of fight choreography — it has introduced new alphabets from hitherto unknown languages to help explain these encounters of will-gone-physical. 

Coda to Stage Access Alvin Ailey Tribute Part One

In Stage Access’s Two-Part Tribute to Alvin Ailey, Episodes comes at the end of Part One and after much signature Ailey-style choreography brought to life by dancers in multicolored, flowing skirts so in contrast to the Dove piece. Judith Jameson herself, whom many of us automatically see dancing Ailey’s Revelations and who at the time of this filming sits in the chair of Ailey’s artistic director successor, helps to narrate this tribute. She frames that Ailey’s greatest achievement has been the nurturing of choreographers who followed in his lead. 

Then, it is soft-spoken Dove who introduces Episodes, explaining how it was spawned by a friend’s passing and his musings on how life would be different if every encounter was lived to the max. Dove, in his gentle way, says that the X we see on the dance floor marks the choices when encounters come to crossroads. In this writer’s view, the sweetness of Dove’s demeanor in making this brief intro to Episodes  is so in contrast with the following flirting-with-violence that it adds to the work’s power to startle. 

You, too, may feel that in the context of this two-part Stage Access paean to Ailey, Episodes makes Jameson’s point quite dramatically. This is a top pick performance both for devotees of Alvin Ailey and those who appreciate dance athleticism. 


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For more information and to screen the Alvin Ailey Tribute en toto, visit the Stage Access website.

Images courtesy of Stage Access

Amy Munice

About the Author: Amy Munice

Amy Munice is Editor-in-Chief and Co-Publisher of Picture This Post. She covers books, dance, film, theater, music, museums and travel. Prior to founding Picture This Post, Amy was a freelance writer and global PR specialist for decades—writing and ghostwriting thousands of articles and promotional communications on a wide range of technical and not-so-technical topics.

Amy hopes the magazine’s click-a-picture-to-read-a-vivid-account format will nourish those ever hunting for under-discovered cultural treasures. She especially loves writing articles about travel finds, showcasing works by cultural warriors of a progressive bent, and shining a light on bold, creative strokes by fledgling artists in all genres.


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