Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater review – sorrow, sex and the gospel truth

Sadler’s Wells, London
The American troupe’s thrilling programmes transform oppression into a night of pure joy

There is a haunting symmetry to the opening-night programme of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. It closes, as all the company’s programmes close, with Revelations, a full-company work danced to spirituals and song sermons. Created by Ailey in 1960, Revelations is an expression of sorrow, longing and trust in the divine. It brings us joy, but from a hard place; the songs on the soundtrack were sung by slaves.

The evening opens with Rennie Harris’s Exodus. Like Revelations, it is an acknowledgment of human frailty and charged with the belief of a better world to come. Harris makes hip-hop dance of thrilling intricacy. To a pulsing fusion of house and gospel music, the dancers ripple across the stage, led by the charismatic Jamar Roberts. Footwork flows; shoulders, torsos and hips are galvanised into liquid and independent articulation. But the piece opens and closes with horror. Freeze-frame images, like onlooker footage, of a man shot dead. And we are reminded that in 2015, the year Harris made Exodus, more than 100 unarmed black men were killed by American police officers.

It’s not about virtuosity, it’s about the physical crafting and fine-tuning of emotion

Related: Dance: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre

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Source: Guardian Dance News

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