Ailey 2 at Theatre Royal
The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre was founded in 1958 and it still carries a hint of the best of that post-war decade, reaching out to consolidate and integrate new and existing trends in modern dance while reflecting the Afro-American traditions of its founder, a dancer, prolific choreographer and immensely influential educator. Ailey 2 began in 1974, a company merging the spirit and energy of the country’s best early-career dance talent with the passion and creative vision of today’s most outstanding and emerging choreographers., while also immersed deeply in community programmes making dance accessible and vital. If a single style typifies this notably youthful company it lies in a muscularity of movement, the stretch and flow of a controlled power just beneath the skin that exudes an energy deeply bedded in the processes of the body, a surprisingly sensitive and emotionally engaged language of dance. This programme of four pieces dating from 1960 to 2021 struck notes of empowerment, spirituality, brutality and shared memory. The use of glowing globes “Freedom Series” made it the most lyrical and meditative offering, balanced by the athletic, ritualistic energy of “The Hunt”, with its thundering percussion soundtrack. Almost nostalgic now is favourite closing piece “Revelations”, the early Ailey-choreographed testament to the social and personal power of American spirituals and holy blues music that fills the heart and touches the soul. From the church-going ladies punctuating their devotions with fluttering fans to the agonised drama of delayed redemption in “Oh Sinner Man” these dances use body and soul to illuminate the human condition.