This month Cardiff was the lucky recipient of one of the world’s greatest contemporary dance companies. Alvin Ailey’s American Dance Theater was based at Cardiff Bay’s Millennium Centre for two nights and I was fortunate enough to see them dance. They have just completed their UK tour but judging on the full-to-the-brim shows in Cardiff, it won’t be too long (hopefully) until they come back.
The programme that the company presented was generally light and nicely varied which is always important for contemporary companies as ‘heavy contemporary’ really scares away the general public. However it wasn’t so much the choreography that blew me away but the dancers themselves. I have never seen a company in which all the dancers are equally talented and in such good shape. The company moved like a well oiled machine, every dancer putting in maximum effort yet appearing effortless and they were all technically faultless. Even more remarkable was that this applied to the male dancers just as much as the women. All the men were beautifully trained and although they were obviously extremely athletic and strong, they also delivered the steps fluidly and softly. The highlight of the show was the male solo IN/SIDE performed by Jamar Roberts. Danced to Nina Simone’s haunting Wild is the Wind the solo is a powerful piece that is at once uncomfortable to watch yet also impossible to stop watching. The piece was full of desperation and yearning and showed off Robert’s exquisite body to the max. It was both a shame and a relief when the solo came to an end.
This piece along with the visually stimulating Suite Otis and Alvin Ailey’s original 1960 work, Revelations, which explores black culture, made up an extremely enjoyable performance. However, overall the performance was slightly marred by the inclusion of Hymn by Judith Jamison which seemed rather indulgent for a traditionalist like me. It was an extremely messy affair and was rather heavy compared to the other pieces. The lighting and costumes were calming blues but by the end of the quite long piece I didn’t feel calm at all. It all seemed a bit dated to me especially as it came after the ultra-modern IN/SIDE. It was musically clever as every beat and layer of the music was reflected in the dancer’s movements but still I couldn’t help but be reminded of my improvisation classes at dance school.
The Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay is an impressive theatre and perfect for dance shows such as Alvin Ailey’s American Dance Theater. They have a great dance deal so check it out!
Alvin Ailey’s Suite Otis