The New 411
By Raymond Ward, Chicago Crusader
The internationally-renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater brings six performances of inspiring, timely works to the Auditorium Theatre, the company’s Chicago home for nearly half a century, on March 7-11.
“Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s annual Chicago residency has been an important part of what we do at the Auditorium Theatre since the company’s first performances here in 1969,” says Tania Castroverde Moskalenko, Auditorium Theatre CEO.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Artistic Director Robert Battle said, “In a wide variety of choreographic treasures – from Alvin Ailey’s American masterpiece ‘Revelations’ to Ailey star Jamar Roberts’ blues-inspired ‘Members Don’t Get Weary’ – the company’s 32 remarkable dancers, including Chicago native Solomon Dumas, will uplift, unite, and enlighten audiences. This year’s celebration of inspiring artistry will also shine a spotlight on the legendary Talley Beatty, a modern dance pioneer who was raised on Chicago’s South Side, with the restaging of his vibrant and dynamic “Stack-Up.”
Battles’ “Members Don’t Get Weary” is “a response to the current social landscape in America … an abstract look at the notion of ‘having the blues’” with the aim of having audiences to transcend them. For his choreographic debut on the company, Roberts created a highly personal piece for 10 dancers that pairs perfectly with music by legendary jazz saxophonist and composer John Coltrane.
The company also gives the Chicago premiere to Spanish choreographer Gustavo Ramírez Sansano’s “Victoria,” a work for 10 to 12 dancers that showcases Sansano’s audacious, athletic style. Sansano has created a propulsive work that feels vital and thrillingly of-the-moment, set to award-winning composer Michael Gordon’s “Rewriting Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony” with elaborate sets by scenic designer Luis Crespo.
In addition to the world premieres by Roberts and Sansano, the Ailey company continues its commitment to presenting important works by dance world greats with new productions of Twyla Tharp’s “The Golden Section,” Beatty’s “Stack-Up,” and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar’s “Shelter.”
Ailey collaborator and Chicago-raised choreographer Talley Beatty’s “Stack-Up” is a poignant, brutal depiction of life in 1970s Los Angeles. The work has been recently restaged by Ailey Associate Artistic Director Masazumi Chaya. Set to a throbbing soundtrack by Earth, Wind & Fire; Grover Washington, Jr.; Fearless Four; and Alphonze Mouzon, “Stack-Up” follows the story of a drug dealer and two displaced lovers, depicting the emotional “traffic” of a community that is stacked on top of each other.
Urban Bush Women’s Jawole Willa Jo Zollar’s “Shelter,” is a passionate, dramatic statement about the physical and emotional deprivation of homeless people. This work for six women features an inventive score that incorporates drumming and poetry by playwright and poet Hattie Gossett and performance artist Laurie Carlos, with text that has been updated to highlight recent weather events and how climate change can threaten everyone’s shelter.