Golden years

By JEFFREY GANTZ  |  May 6, 2009

Ailey's signature Revelations, just a year younger than the company itself, will conclude every program in the Opera House run. These days, that's pretty much by popular demand, and it's not hard to see why: following Go in Grace and Suite Otis, the piece looked that much more muscular, volumetric, and rooted in the African-American experience, the ensemble of the opening "I Been 'Buked" speaking in tongues and luxuriating in the Light. The moments that spoke loudest Tuesday were the humble, solitary ones: Linda Celeste Sims and Glenn Allen Sims relating in a way that needed no fixing in "Fix Me, Jesus," Amos J. Machinic Jr. supporting a crushing burden of sin in "I Wanna Be Ready." The more communal celebrations, like the "Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham" finale, can seem impersonal when you flash back to the iconic, multi-winged bird of Revelations' opening tableau.

Every program will begin with the 12-minute film "Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at 50." We see Ailey — who was born in 1931 in Rogers, Texas — as a boy in a cowboy outfit and brandishing six-shooters; we learn of his origins in the South, the blues, the gospel church; we get testimonials from Donald Byrd and Garth Fagan and Elisa Monte and Robert Battle. Best of all, there's Ailey himself, the force of his personality coming across even on film. The second half is more corporate, a plug for the company, for its Ailey II troupe, its Ailey Extension program, its Ailey Camp. Sweet Honey would sum all this up in a lyric about "how far we've come"; it might be a platitude, but it's also the truth.

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