Friday, November 5, 2010

Community Review: Ailey II

It is pretty shameful how little experience I have with dance.  My entire life has been filled with music, and never have I had any sort of training, formal or informal, with regard to dance.  This is how I entered the Fox Cities P.A.C. on Thursday night to see Ailey II.  Ailey II is a world-renowned dance company that was founded in 1958 by dancer, choreographer Alvin Ailey, to bring African-American cultural expression and the American modern dance tradition to the world.  I had absolutely no idea what to expect.  

The first segment of the performance was a piece entitled "Echoes," written in 2008.  I was immediately struck with how graceful, ethereal, and fluid the performers were.  All 12 of them danced in this intricate, powerful, and mesmerizing segment.  For a short time, I found myself trying to understand or grasp the artistic elements, but having no experience to draw from, I quickly let go and just enjoyed the stunning and inspiring movement.  It really is amazing how easy these dancers make their craft look, but the sweat pouring from all 12 faces after 25 minutes of movement spoke to the effort and power required of performers of this caliber.

A series of solo performances followed that were no less beautiful.  In fact, it was sometimes easier for my ignorant and untrained eye to watch one performer, because I actually felt I was able to focus more on the movements and expression of a single dancer.  

Although the final third of the performance was a series of short pieces set to choral gospel music, I did not enjoy them as much as the more ethereal and abstract pieces from the first part of the show.  As a vocal musician, I found my attention wandering to the choral singing.  I am quite sure that this particular reaction was most likely limited to people with my particular background, however.

In short, I could not have asked for a better introduction to the world of dance than this performance gave me.  It is hard to comprehend a more artistic, expressive, stunning, or powerful portrayal of human movement than was delivered by Ailey II.

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