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Alvin Ailey was Breathtaking

Just saw Alvin Ailey for the first time EVER. It was just so…beautiful, amazing, breathtaking, awe-inspiring, the list of adjectives could go on forever. It’s what I’ve been missing in my life in terms of dance. I miss seeing athletic, strong, powerful, yet graceful dancers. The majority of the dancing in Oberlin was so UN-athletic, rather apathetic, and required such little skill that Ailey was a breath of fresh air and an attack on my visual senses. It was also just so great to see male dancers flying through the air, kicking their legs up to their foreheads, strong yet effortless, and to be able to watch every muscle tense as they moved, even as far back as I was.

Tonight they performed Night Creatures, Cry, Anointed (which is a new piece premiering in NY), and of course, Revelations. I just don’t think that I have the words to describe what I saw. It’s one of those things that you must see before you die. Cry was such an incredible display of dancing with 3 beautifully powerful women. I really loved the first section of it, how she used this long piece of cloth in different ways to exhibit different attitudes, different scenarios.

Anointed was…I’m at a loss…Priscilla put it best “that was on some flying whale shit” —in reference to the flying whales in Fantasia, it was MAGICAL! The second section with the corps of women was some of the craziest, fascinating displays of feminine masculinity (if that makes any sense), I’d say virility but apparently that only applies to men, so I’d say fertility, energetic, almighty fertility. I want to see that section over and over again—rewind, fast forward.  And the last piece was where it was just pure magic. All of these bodies moving through space, all of the space, through the air, on the floor, in circles, everywhere—bodies in sync with one another. It was fluid nonstop motion of bodies in and out, up and down, around. I mean I remember dancing in large ensembles when I was in ballet and how magical it would feel during the performance when everyone knew where they were supposed to be and no matter the number of people on stage, we just moved easily in and out of one another, dancing at 100%, but never running into each other. It’s such a high. I know that they had to have been feeling that rush, that high, of knowing the choreography so well that they weren’t doing steps but they were one with the music and the movement and each other; and to see everyone’s bodies moving around you and to fly through the air and know with certainty there were arms to catch you and support you as you contort into the next shape, and the next, and so on. AGH! Too incredible!!!

And then there was Revelations. With live music, and Ella Mitchell singing. The first piece will always be my favorite, to “I been ‘buked” with that famous formation in the “V” and the arms. *sigh* It was so surreal because they kept adding more and more people to the stage, and they had a little corps of children that joined in who were like 7 or 8 years old, so that by the time they got back around to the “V” to end the first vignette, the “V” had grown to fill almost the entire stage and the chorus of arms was just breathtaking. And then at the end with the church ladies and their fans and the men in their Sunday’s best, you just knew they enjoyed every step they took, that they were having so much fun dancing on stage and with each other. You don’t always get that kind of energy where you just wanna jump on stage and be part of it too.

This post has been very stream of consciousness and rather incomprehensible, but there’s a reason for that. In talking about Beethoven on Terrence Blanchard’s album Choices, Dr. Cornel West said,

“In the end we finite creatures don’t have a language or even a linguistic eloquence that can begin to be fully truthful to the experiences that we have in this short time we’re here in time and space. So, therefore, we need some sounds, even some noise, organized noise, we need silence between the notes and the sounds, that get at the deeper truths of who we are.”

The same can be said of Alvin Ailey through movement. He had the choreographic eloquence that gets at the deeper truths of who we are that cannot be articulated in words alone. Thus, my inability to articulate the ideas and emotions communicated through the dancers’ embodiment on stage tonight is not the result of an inadequate vocabulary, but is, instead, the result of the inadequacy of words themselves.

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