Friends of Alvin Ailey "Ailey II" review by soundtheater

10.05.12
Ailey II
OFFSTAGE

A glorious celebration of dance Rating: 5

Ailey II
Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey

Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey presented "Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (Ailey II)" at the historic Folly Theater on October 4. Two premiers shined in the program and the company offered a night of magnificent dance and movement.

As a part of their North American tour, the Ailey II Company stopped in Kansas City, the organization's second home and 2012 residency. The Thursday night program presented acclaimed choreography by Thang Dao along with two premiers, one by Paris-born choreographer Benoit-Swan Pouffer, and another by up-and-coming Amy Hall Garner.

The opening work, "Echoes (2008)", by the award winning choreographer Thang Dao, is based on the choreographer's memories of life in Vietnam and his migration to America, and it is a graceful integration of ballet into contemporary stance. Even though the piece is retelling of personal memories, the company dancers impeccably translated it into a visual story about support systems, overcoming hardship and finding one's identity through this support.

The dancers had a few small problems with synchronization in unison ensemble passages in this piece; however, they easily made up for it in spirit and expression. They executed an effortless, almost weightless, fluidity where contrasting emotions met.

"Rusty (2012)" by Benoit-Swan Pouffer was the first premier of the night. It is a contemporary piece that explores young performers' experience in competitive settings. Set to Mikael Karlson's score with strong down beats and recorded speech, the work has an assertive urban attitude. The inner dynamics of urban social groups, and crisis of self-expression is easily seen in this energetic work. Dancers showed personality and chemistry in the ensemble setting, resulting in a remarkably strong performance. An all-male trio in the beginning of the work, and later, a quintet, were the strongest moments of the piece, and successfully depicted male bonding in social groups.

The closing piece, and another premier, "Virtues (2012)" by Amy Hall Garner, was a collage piece that offered a bit of ballet, jazz, and contemporary, and showcased dancers' multifaceted technique. The score was a montage of different genres, mostly carried out through a lively African beat. High-paced, lively, and vigorous, this piece brought out pride and power in each dancer, culminating in the celebration of movement that was breathtaking to watch.

Intermissions between the pieces were not well coordinated. There was no curtain call; the dancers had to start as the houselights were still on and with audience members still outside the hall.

However, Ailey II dancers did not falter; they were mesmerizing and inspirational throughout the night. They moved with control, pride, and charm. There is no story these dancers cannot depict with their flawless technique and genuine expression. With their perfect limbs and passion, they are what dancers – and what dance – should look like.

Ailey II will be at the Folly Theater until October 6 with a different program on alternating shows. It is a must-see for anyone who wants to witness the breathtaking power of the human body's expression meeting rhythm.