From March 8-12, the historic Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre presents three programs at the Auditorium Theatre, featuring the Chicago debuts of “Are You in Your Feelings” by Kyle Abraham and “In A Sentimental Mood” by Jamar Roberts, fan favorites like Paul Taylor’s “Duet” and Twyla Tharp’s “Roy’s Joys,” and classic company repertory by Alvin Ailey, including “The River” (1970), “Cry” (1971), “Night Creatures (1974) and “Survivors” (1986), a collaborative work with Mary Barnett and Ailey’s signature work, “Revelations” (1960).
On March 8, See Chicago Dance was invited to attend the opening night performance, held in conjunction with the Auditorium Theatre’s 2023 Annual Gala, this year honoring longtime board member Ann Nash and veteran arts and philanthropy consultant Amina Dickerson. The event included an appearance by Auditorium Theatre CEO Rich Regan introducing Alvin Ailey’s Artistic Director Robert Battle, who in a short speech included a quote by Ailey: “Dance is for everybody. I believe that the dance came from the people and that it should always be delivered back to the people.”
The program began with “Are You in Your Feelings” by Kyle Abraham, fashioned in the “mixtape” style of short works, a sampling of music and dance styles from across multiple genres and eras. The tone, narrative and style of dance changes every few minutes, propelled by a musical smorgasbord that includes songs by Erykah Badu, Kendrick Lamar, Shirley Brown, The Flamingos and more.
Recurring thematic elements are introduced early on. One diagonal arm opposes a pointed foot in tendu. Clenched fists circle around the head of the body. Outstretched arms circle backwards and carry that momentum into a body roll. There is a lot of ballet in the work. Its juxtaposition with Hip Hop styles creates a unique dynamic. Vernacular styles like voguing, House dance and even the Nae Nae make appearances.
“Are You in Your Feelings” has something for everyone. Its parts combine to form a joyful celebration of the last 50 years of African American dance, music and culture.
Exclusive to this performance, “Unfold,” a tender pas de deux by Robert Battle, features dancers Jermaine Terry and Yazzmeen Laidler and is set to a sensuous aria by Gustave Charpentier. Laidler is comically aloof, lying stiff-legged in the center of the floor. Meanwhile, Terry does his best to express himself. He hoists her up. Drops her down, hard! Pulls her across the floor by her leg. Walks dejectedly over her. But he pulls himself together, and her, too, in a dead stop, her leg rising ever so slowly, indicating a rise of confidence.
Short and sweet, Battle’s “Unfold” is a metaphor for love blossoming, like a flower, the perfect accompaniment to a Spring program.
Ailey’s “Revelations” is exuberant as ever. Dressed in all white “Sunday clothes,” the company of dancers faithfully reproduce Ailey’s signature style to the soulful soundtrack of antebellum “sorrow songs” and 20th century gospel music.
Ailey fans were in abundance, clearly familiar with his Horton-esque style. At the first appearance of a string of chaîné turns with arms at right angles, the entire audience began to buzz. When a body, with arms parallel overhead and one leg pointed out to the side, bent low in the waist, people almost lost it! If you are worried that you won’t get to catch “Revelations,” fear not, because the work ends each of the three programs, making the work exceptionally accessible.
For five decades the Auditorium Theatre has been hosting Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre as a visiting resident company. The love feels reciprocal, with the company bringing a diversity of work while giving everyone an opportunity to see Ailey’s signature piece. Whether you’ve seen Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre one time or a hundred, the electricity of seeing a legacy company in a large crowd of people is quite extraordinary and an experience worth having.
Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre performance March 8-12 at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 East Ida B. Wells Dr. For information on the three different programs, tickets prices and seating, check out the event page below, or call the box office, (312) 341-2300.