REVIEW: AILEY 2 @ THEATRE ROYAL PLYMOUTH
🎭 Ailey 2
📍 The Lyric, Theatre Royal Plymouth, Royal Parade, Plymouth, Devon, PL1 2TR
🗓 Tuesday 26th September 2023
A DANCE SHOW FILLED WITH POWER AND PRECISION
Alvin Ailey was a renowned American dancer, choreographer and activist who founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater as a haven to nourish Black artists and express the universality of the African-American experience through dance.
Ailey 2 is essentially the baby of the Alvin Ailey family and is a repertory company which embodies the pioneering mission to establish and extend cultural community. With Artistic Director Francesca Harper at the helm, Ailey 2 is bringing a collection of 4 dances to the UK by Dance Consortium.
Dance Consortium is a collaboration between 19 venues with the aim to tour the best contemporary dance from across the world to local audiences across the UK and Ireland.
There is no doubt that the young company members who make up Ailey 2 are insanely talented. I was impressed throughout with their ability, power, precision and core strength. The stage was sparse with no set, but one wasn't needed as all the storytelling came through the choreography, with the aid of subtle lighting.
The evening was split into 4 separate dances, which were performed over 3 acts. The first was called Enemy In The Figure and was performed by all 12 members of the company. Created by William Forsythe for Ballet Frankfurt, I really enjoyed the sharpness and focus of the movements throughout. This sharpness was a glorious juxtaposition to the fluidity created by the lower garments worn by the company. They almost created waves across the stage which was creatively brilliant alongside the strength and force of the choreography. There was a wonderful change of tone mid-way through the piece which kept it exciting. As the piece ended and the lights faded, the company were still dancing, in what I later found out to be improvised movements. A strong start to the evening.
The second piece Freedom Series was choreographed by Artistic Director of Ailey 2 Francesca Harper. I really enjoyed the whole production around this piece and it was perhaps my overall favourite of the evening. Set in a hybrid world where memory influences the future, the piece was littered with incredible performances. The beginning had two male dancers, dancing independently yet together in a sublime piece of artistry. There was also a solo moment for a female dancer who was dressed to impress. There was a glorious use of lighting in this piece, with the dancers carrying balls of light which were used to great effect. The male soloist in this piece looked as if he was chasing the light.
I also enjoyed the use of music in Freedom Series, especially the mixture of styles. When it started it sounded very futuristic, almost space-age, but transitioned gloriously. This piece also understood the power of silence, with breaks in the music which allowed the audience to focus on nothing but the choreography and bathe in the beauty before their eyes.
I did struggle to find a narrative within these first two pieces, possibly because these were both excerpts of larger dances, but this in no way hampered my enjoyment of them. Theatre is always subjective and this is even more true of dance, especially contemporary dance, and the talent of the company gave me immense pleasure to watch so the narrative took a back seat for me anyway.
Next we were treated to a performance of The Hunt, choreographed by Robert Battle who is the Artistic Director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. I had mixed feelings about this piece to be honest. It undeniably had a very strong start but I felt that it lost its way a little. It somehow felt too fluid and it didn't seem to have the sharpness and power of the earlier pieces, which I felt the choreography and music demanded. It was still impressive, but for me it just didn't have the same impact as the other dances. During interval conversations I said that I felt that rather than having four female dancers, it would have worked better with two female and two male dancers as I felt that this would have given the piece the diversity and power it was lacking. At the post-show talk I discovered that this piece was originally choreographed for four male dancers and that this was the first time it was being presented as an all female piece. It's strange that I felt it needed male dancers, and this helped to explain my feelings. Also, if this was the very first time that they had performed then maybe as time progresses it will tighten up and it will find the missing element.
The evening closed with a performance of Alvin Ailey's signature masterpiece Revelations. This stunning piece mixes gospel with African-American spirituals in a glorious story which explore grief and joy whilst looking at the cultural heritage of the African-Americans. The use of gospel music throughout this piece worked incredibly. I would love to see this staged with a live gospel choir performing as I think that would be an incredible experience.
Revelations was without doubt the spectacle of the evening and provided a phenomenal ending to an incredible 2 hours of dance. The utter standout moment came from Andrew Bryant as he performed a solo to I Wanna Be Ready. He was breathtaking and mesmerising and the audience watched in silent awe at his sublime performance. I believe that this was the first time he had performed this in front of an audience which makes it all the more incredible.
Similarly, Sinnerman was full of high energy and precision which I adored. There were elements which I didn't think were as strong, such as Wade in the Water. Unfortunately, as much as I loved the production surrounding the piece, I felt the energy of the choreography here didn't match the energy of the music and I was, perhaps selfishly, left wanting more.
The piece ended strongly with Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham in an explosion of sheer magic. Technically perfect in every way, this was a stupendous ending. Perhaps the strongest ending to a dance show I have ever seen.
Overall this was an incredibly impressive and enjoyable night of dance and would 100% recommend the show to anyone. There is one performance left at Theatre Royal Plymouth which is tonight and there are still tickets available. Head to www.theatreroyal.com and grab yours to avoid missing out.
All views are my own and I pride myself on being honest and free from influence.
My ticket for this performance was gifted by Theatre Royal Plymouth who invited me to watch the show in exchange for my honest review. The fact that my ticket was gifted played no part in the star rating given or the content of my review.
Andrew Bryant; Spencer Everett; Jaryd Farcon; Maya Finman-Palmer; Patrick Gamble; Alfred L. Jordan II; Kiri Moore; Corinth Moulterie; Kali Marie Oliver; Tamia Strickland; Kayla Mei-Wan Thomas; Maggy Van Den Heuvel
Apprentices: Jennifer M Gerken; Xhosa Scott; Darion Turner; Jordan White
Artistic Director: Francesca Harper
RUNNING TIME (approx):
1 hour 55 minutes, including 2 intervals and a pause in act 2
The Theatre Royal Plymouth is the principle home of the performing arts in the South West and is the largest and most attended regional producing theatre in the country. Their mission is to develop and deepen people's engagement with pioneering creativity in Plymouth and the South West, delivering experiences that spark delight, expression and fulfilment. The venue offers three performance spaces of various sizes, the largest being The Lyric which accommodates the big touring productions. The Drum and The Lab are smaller, intimate spaces and often offer pioneering productions and I have personally seen some excellent productions in these spaces.