Chicago Dance Review: ALVIN AILEY AMERICAN DANCE THEATER (Auditorium Theatre)

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by Lawrence Bommer on March 1, 2014

in Theater-Chicago


It’s its second annual homecoming, the much-anticipated, event-filled Alvin Ailey American Theater arrives at the Auditorium Theatre, as well as to community venues all over Chicago. Bringing with them three complete programs of dazzling dance, this 2014 edition showcases the troupe’s vital verve, reminding audiences why they retain a love affair with this American institution.

Akua Noni Parker and Jamar Roberts in Alvin Ailey's CHROMA. Photo by Paul Kolnick.

Opening night put two new pieces and one beloved favorite on solid display. British choreographer Wayne McGregor’s 2006 Chroma (premiered by A.A. last year) takes place in a huge open white cube with a white-to-black rectangular window. It’s a deliberately conscripted space for which the music of Joby Talbot and Jack White creates its own raucous interplay.

The Company in Alvin Ailey's CHROMA. Photo by Paul Kolnick.

Breaking the frame repeatedly, the piece’s assorted departures and arrivals speak volumes as lightness and darkness vary with entrances and exits. What follows is a rapid-fire succession of ecstatic couplings, competitive or combative duos, and a hot homoerotic male trio who strut their stuff (all the more masculine for the women’s blouses they sport). It ends with the ten-person ensemble erupting into an inventory of flailing, whirling, jumping and semaphore gesticulations.

Antonio Douthit-Boyd and Linda Celeste Sims in Alvin Ailey's CHROMA. Photo by Paul Kolnick.

Next up in this program, eleven dancers participate in 2013’s Four Corners, Ronald K. Brown’s very crowd-pleasing depiction of the four angels who supposedly perch on the earth’s four corners and hold back or release the four winds. Carl Hancock Rux’s  score suits the communal, ritualistic and even tribal feel of this West African odyssey with its propitiation rites and celebratory exuberance. Stories are told by limbs alone to a high percussive musical backdrop–pulsating, clapping, hammering and banging. Here the energy truly feeds on itself like cold fusion, and the audience finally give it all back in the triumphant feedback that exploded at the curtain call.

The Company in Alvin Ailey's FOUR CORNERS by Ronald K. Brown. Photo by Paul Kolnick.

Of course, no Alvin Ailey evening can omit their signature piece from 1961. What I wrote last year still holds, since nothing has been allowed to alter over 54 seasons: “Alvin Ailey’s 1960 signature piece Revelations delivers a Terpsichorean testament to ten still-stirring spirituals. This suite of spirituality ranges from the literal hell-raising of ‘Sinner Man’ to the baptismal purification of ‘Wade in the Water,’ with a parasol arcing over the action and ribbons suggesting the waters of the Jordan River, and the parishioners gleaming in bright white. The final scene, hilariously busy with fluttering fans waved by gossipy church ladies, culminates in the contagious joy of ‘Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham,’ generously repeated in the curtain call. ‘Take Me to the Water’ indeed.” I second the emotion.

The Company in Alvin Ailey's FOUR CORNERS by Ronald K. Brown - Photo by Paul Kolnick.

photos by Paul Kolnick

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Auditorium Theatre
scheduled to end on March 9, 2014
for tickets call 800-982-ARTS or visit

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