Wednesday, 1 October 2014

FEAST FOR THE EYES: Ailey II's Kingston recital offered a magical, sensory experience

TAKING FLIGHT: Dancers performing "Virtues," one of the show's most captivating pieces.

Six men appear centrestage, bare-chested and clad in high-waisted black skirts. Against a vivid red backdrop they form a circle and launch into a series of manoeuvres and entanglements that seriously highlight their taut physiques and sheer masculine physicality. Before long, the homoerotic tension mounts and the intense musical accompaniment (Les Tambours du Bronx) takes on an increasingly sinister vibe. We are witnessing "The Hunt," a 2001 work choreographed by the great Robert Battle, and one of the major highlights that made up the programme at Sunday's hugely enjoyable recital by the Ailey II dance company inside Kingston's Little Theatre.

An internationally renowned troupe — founded in 1974 as the junior department of the venerable Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre Company — Ailey II delivers best when the imagery before our eyes is nothing short of spectacular. And there was plenty of that to go round during Sunday's well-attended performance, staged under the auspices of the Wolmer's Trust (celebrating anniversary number 285). This Kingston performance also represented one of the stops on the company's global 2014-15 tour.

They showed us only four works on Sunday, but nonetheless they were as immensely satisfying as they were gorgeously costumed and vibrantly lit. The choreography, clearly from the creative imagination of some brilliant minds, was just as spellbinding. And there's no other way to say this: artistically, the dancers are perfection, endowed with jaw-dropping agility, grace and the kind of simplistically beautiful technique that leaves you transfixed. Every detail communicates a sensory experience. 

In addition to "The Hunt," the dancers did an excerpt from 2006's "Splendid Isolation," choreographed by Jessica Lang and featuring a haunting solo called "The Calling" performed by the magnetic Aubree Brown. Jennifer Archibald's flighty "Wings" (from 2013) gave the show a solid opening, and the brilliantly crafted "Virtues," Amy Hall Garner's 2012 masterwork, equal parts joyous and atmospheric, kept the dancers light on their feet right up to the final pliĆ©. 

Striking unmistakable parallels with Jamaica's own National Dance Theatre Company (NDTC), Ailey II has decades of tradition and legacy to uphold — and, best of all, a gifted set of new-generation dancers (six young ladies, six lads) intent on keeping the vision alive. They deserve the highest possible praise for their brilliant work.

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