Deus et Machina


Let us now hail the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (New York State Theater) for its survival and triumphant entry into the new millennium. Besides shining as soloists, sleek and capable, the dancers cohere as a team and amplify one another. They are a godsend to any choreographer lucky enough to work with them, and they are lucky to have a visionary original like Ronald K. Brown, whose 1999 Grace is simply a masterpiece. Here, where passion is next to godliness, where energies of luminous white and hot-pepper red boogie to transcendence, Brown redefines what dance—what the Ailey dancer—can do. Brown’s great ear will teach you music’s myriad layers, its edgy, tangy dimensions, its sweet, secret spots. The Ailey dancers are right there with him all the way, ascending in their true power.

In Judith Jamison’s new Double Exposure (with its unusually large creative design team), a more familiar, Horton-based Ailey fabulousness eventually blasts through all the multimedia noise. Dancers mimic the rage of projected solar flares, whirl in a digital cage, and videotape their own images for live backdrops. The dance can be seen as the human struggle to escape a prison of soul-snatching electronics. At least, I think that’s what’s going on.

Revelations, the company’s signature work entering its fifth decade, dazzles as if new. Glen A. Sims draws one’s eyes to the gentleness in its “Fix Me, Jesus” duet (with Linda-Denise Evans); he’s an unmacho, divine presence who brings out his partner’s inherent confidence in herself. The church ladies with their potato-chip hats and butterfly-wing fans rock harder now in the bosom of Abraham, gladdening even those of us who think we’ve seen them one time too many. It feels like you can never get enough.