In keeping with the open door policy by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the works of four choreographers were offered on the matinee of Dec. 3—Artistic Director Judith Jamison's "Divining," Bill T. Jones' "Fever Swamp," Alonzo King's "Following the Subtle Current Upstream," and Ronald K. Brown's "Grace."
The Jamison creation in three movements has a group of runners in virgin territory attempting to survey the area, in order to make certain that their leader can advance out of danger. He can then proceed to bless the region. After sensing that the spirits are benevolent and the surroundings safe, the group gathers and ceremonies begin.
Part of the ritual, titled "Resting," saw Linda-Denise Evans as priestess in a solo of such extensive balance that every one of her stances would seem supernatural. This added to the air of brooding mystery that pervaded the atmosphere.
In addition to Ms. Evans, the other performers rating high praise were Rosalyn Sanders, Kevin E. Boseman, Benoit-Swan Pouffer, Amos J. Machanic, Jr., Anthony Burrell, Venus Hall, Vernard J. Gilmore, Guillermo Asca, and Jeremiah Tatum.
"Divining," which premiered in 1984, was the artistic director's first work for a major company and remains one of her first creations, as well as one of the most succinct of her efforts. Sarita Allen, Elizabeth Roxas, and Masazumi Chaya (associate artistic director) are credited with the restaging.
"Fever Swamp" had five boys and one girl coming onto the scene jumping steadily. When they finally stop, they indulge in varied bounces, tumbling over each other; there is also fighting and some dissension. But mainly, they tend to remind us of a group of youngsters playing on the empty lot next door and having a whale of a time. If, as the choreographer has contended, the youngsters illustrate the turmoil beneath the surface, we were so completely focused on the expansive energy that we were hardly aware of any masked disturbances. We did find the bouncy sextet—consisting of Dwana Adiaha Smallwood, Matthew Rushing, Glenn A. Sims, Richard Witter, Clifton Brown, and Jeffrey Gerodias—totally vibrant.
The one world premiere offered was "Following the Subtle Current Upstream." While we were impressed by Alonzo King's lengthy explanation of his intentions as listed in the souvenir book, generally we found his choreography as ambiguous as the title.
King is admirably poetic in his dissertation. Unfortunately, he is a bit short on realization. One of the choreographer's lines did manage to penetrate: "No matter how failed or disappointing, the search goes on."
In solos, Clifton Brown, Linda-Denise Evans, and Dwana Adiaha Smallwood were quite extraordinary. As a whole, the women were seen to better advantage than the men. The male contingent displayed vast potential, but this was never fully realized in the overall choreography.
"Grace" possesses influences of African-American and West African pop, and contemporary dance. The title word has several definitions and Ronald K. Brown seemed to have utilized most of them. Alternating between explosive rhythms and religious fervor, he created some awesome combinations, which satisfy all the senses.
The entire company proved outstanding, with Linda-Denise Evans particularly dynamic. She performs like a Fury, but manages to draw attention even while standing still in the background.
Mummenschanz, the Swiss mime troupe, returns to New York for the holidays with a two-week engagement at Alice Tully Hall through Dec. 31. The company will present the premiere of an all-new production entitled "Mummenschanz Next."
Venue: Alice Tully Hall, 1941 Broadway (at W. 65th St.), NYC. Remaining performances: Dec. 28, 29, and 30, at 2 pm and 8 pm, and Dec. 31, at 3 pm. Tickets: $27.50 and $45, available at box office or through CenterCharge at (212) 721-6500.
First Annual Janice Levin Dancer
New York City Ballet corps de ballet member Abi Stafford has been named the company's first Janice Levin Dancer, a new honor announced by NYCB's Ballet Master in Chief Peter Martins.
Each year, the title of Janice Levin Dancer will be bestowed upon one of the most promising young members of the NYCB corps de ballet. Mr. Martins will select the awardee each year.
For years, Janice Levin has been a great champion of young dancers, both at the School of American Ballet and at New York City Ballet. "Her interest in and commitment to these talented youngsters is extraordinary and truly inspiring," said Mr. Martins.
The Foundation for Ethnic Dance
The Foundation for Ethnic Dance, Inc. is a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit organization, and since its inception in 1967 has been dedicated to documenting, preserving, teaching, and performing authentic forms of indigenous dance representing the many countries of the world. The Foundation continues to provide representation in the area of ethnic dance at symposia and conferences on dance panels, and presents concerts, lecture demonstrations, master classes, and participants in residencies for all age levels, making the public more aware and appreciative of ethnic dance.
At present, The Foundation for Ethnic Dance is assembling and cataloguing its archives while organizing the career materials of Carola Goya and Matteo for future release of their biographies. Goya and Matteo's career spans 70 years in American Dance—seven decades of concertizing, choreography, lecturing, researching, and writing. The team was named "Irreplaceable Dance Treasures" by The Dance Heritage Coalition—an alliance of major dance collections formed to document and preserve America's dance—in its 1999-2000 initiative.
Carola Goya is recognized for her pioneering efforts, which introduced Spanish Dance on the concert stage throughout the U.S. and abroad, beginning in the late 1920s. Matteo is a unique figure in the world of multiracial dance and ethnomusicology. He is the author of two books: The Language of Spanish Dance and Woods That Dance.
Tax-deductible contributions may be sent to: The Foundation for Ethnic Dance, Inc., 17 W. 71st St., New York, NY 10023.