By Debbie Ditton
From the moment the lights came up on the stage of Logan’s historic Ellen Eccles Theatre, I was completely mesmerized by the remarkable Ailey ll dancers. In fact, during both intermissions and after the performance, there was an animated buzz about what we had just experienced together. It was intimate, fierce, and joyful.
With Artistic Director Troy Powell at the helm, these young talented dancers thrill their audiences with two contemporary pieces, Circular (2016) and Breaking Point (2017) and warm their hearts with Alvin Ailey’s masterpiece, Revelations (1960). The evening lasted just about two hours, including two intermissions, and I could have sat through two hours more.
Circular, choreographed by Jae Man Joo, is like watching poetry. It is intimate, intricate, and thought provoking. The shapes, lines, and extensions, with their foundations in ballet, exquisitely combine to show the grace and power of the dancers. The simple costumes, designed by Christine Darch, let the audience experience the power and majesty of the dancers’ bodies, while adding texture and shape. The use of shadow and light, conceived by Lighting Designer Bob Ross creates an intimate feeling in a theatre with 450 other audience members. The most powerful section of this piece is a men’s duet, danced to a beautiful vocal rendition of Lascia Ch’io Pianga (George Frideric Handel). It juxtaposes powerful, masculine movement with beauty and emotion that is breathtaking. It felt very personal to me. I loved that there were moments in the piece where I could hear the dancers breathing. The entire audience seemed to breathe with them. Like masterful poetry, Circular left each viewer with a unique and personal experience.
Breaking Point, choreographed by Renee I. McDonald can best be described as fierce. From the first movement to the last, the audience is taken on a high-octane, athletic and passionate journey. The music by Audiomachine is dynamic and vibrates into the soul. Fortunately, the choreography also fills the stage and the dancers are up to the task. I felt like I was watching the final round of an Olympic sport and it was thrilling. The costumes, designed by Taylor S. Barnett, and lighting by Brandon Stirling Baker, are integral to the impact of the piece. The raw power of Breaking Point makes the heart race during sections danced by the entire company, while its control and emotion draw you in during the solos and duets. I was especially moved by the connection between Yazzmeen Laidler and Marcus Williams during their passionate pas de deux. On the Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation website is says “You don’t just see an Ailey performance, you feel it.” I couldn’t agree more.
Finally, I was thrilled when I saw that I would get to see Alvin Ailey’s groundbreaking dance work, Revelations. Ailey described African-American cultural heritage with these words –“sometimes sorrowful, sometimes jubilant, but always hopeful.” Using African-American Spirituals and bluesy gospel music as the soundtrack, the work poignantly expresses these feelings in its three sections: Pilgrim of Sorrow, Take Me to the Water, and Move, Members, Move. Through the music and the storytelling of the dancers – their movement and acting – I truly felt the full gamut of emotions, from the sorrow of rebuke and sin, to the joy of repentance and salvation. The beautiful flowing costumes and creative decor, designed by Ves Harper (costumes for Rocka My Soul redesigned by Barbara Forbes), add to the beauty and delight of the work, and the lighting by Nicola Cernovitch puts us right in the middle of the action. Again, I loved the duet in this piece. Danced by Corrin Rachelle Mitchell and Marcus Williams, I was drawn into the ethereal quality of the movement. Mitchell’s legs and arms seem to extend to the sky, and a few times I was sure she was floating. Her balance and control is remarkable and Williams’ strength impressive. The entire company dances Revelations from their soul. The sorrow and joy literally radiates from each dancer and their eight-minute standing ovation was well- deserved.
I hope that the next time CacheArts Presents brings a dance group of this caliber to Cache Valley, that it will be even better attended. I loved that there were children in the audience, as it was a truly memorable evening of modern dance. Now we need to double the size of the audience. Thank you Ailey ll for stopping in Logan on this season’s tour. We are all the richer for it.
CacheArts Presents National Touring Season: Ailey ll
Ellen Eccles Theatre, 43 South Main Street, Logan, UT 84321
Feb 9, 2018 7:30 PM
Cache Valley Center for the Arts
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