Athleticism, Grace and Versatility: Alvin Ailey At Sadler's Wells

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Sadler’s Wells ★★★★☆

Athleticism, Grace and Versatility: Alvin Ailey At Sadler's Wells Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Sadler’s Wells 4
Photo: Nan Melville

It’s been three years since the exquisite dancers of the Alvin Ailey company last animated the London stage. Now celebrating its 61st year, the company brings to Sadler's Wells a trio of programmes that celebrate its dancers’ athleticism, grace and versatility.

Time’s tide washes over EN, American ballet choreographer Jessica Lang’s first piece for the company. Against a percussive soundtrack evoking winding mechanisms, clock-face formations, pendulum swings and tick-tock promenades are punctuated with playful hip and shoulder shimmies. Dressed in clinical white, the dancers are poised and elegant; there’s an energy here, but a cool and crystalline one that doesn’t quite reach the rear stalls.

Photo: Paul Kolnik

Ronald K Brown’s The Call lets five of the company dancers loose on contrasting styles and forms: long liquid arms and neoclassical pirouettes set against jazzy Harlem swing and grounded West African isolations. The forms remain discrete, never rubbing together or fusing, but despite that slight compartmentalisation, The Call is a joyful showcase of the dancers’ facility with differing dance idioms.

Juba, a revival of current Artistic Director Robert Battle’s first piece for the company brings the energy of folk-dance to a quartet of dancers, all stomps, jumps, high knees and clasped hands. How much you love the piece will probably depend in part upon how much you love John Mackey’s discordant contemporary string score, but the sheer vigour of the four tireless performers cannot be faulted.

Photo: Paul Kolnik

The programme ends, as does every Ailey performance, with the uniquely uplifting Revelations, a historic work reflecting Southern Baptist traditions that, after literally thousands of performances, still somehow manages to be perfectly current.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre (three programmes) Sadler’s Wells EC1R 4TN. Tickets £15-£75, until 15 September 2019.

Last Updated 06 September 2019