Review: Alvin Ailey’s American Dance Theatre at the Birmingham Hippodrome

Under its new chief executive Fiona Allan Birmingham Hippodrome is currently on a mission to bring unique events to the Midlands and grow an audience that’s both dynamic and diverse – and on last night’s showing it really works.

Alvin Ailey’s American Dance Theatre brought a show that’s simply exploding with young talent, and the audience took it immediately to their hearts.

Belan Pereyra in Four Corners

Belan Pereyra in Four Corners

The evening opened with a bang. Open Door choreographed by Ronald K Brown celebrated the rural roots of black American culture – after all the farmers were the first settlers to make their mark on the land of America. Yet it’s still a shock to realise that these gestures, sowing, reaping, trampling down the very land, also recall the unwelcome fact that America’s agricultural successes, especially in the south, were made possible by the massive importations of black slaves to work the land, and that these dancers are their descendants. A beautifully executed and deeply moving introduction to the company’s ethos, pure but very far from simple.

Paul Taylor’s Paizzolla Caldera was by contrast metropolitan, celebrating the culture of New Orleans through music, fashion and steps that recalled the high-stepping dandies and dames of the turn of the century who made up the vibrancy of this French-influenced capital of the South. Many of the movements stemmed from what we might recognise as apache dancing, a violent interplay between the sexes that’s really edgy high-octane stuff.

Particularly spectacular was an interlude in which two drunken men out on the town failed to support each other or themselves, just one detail from a kaleidoscopic display, beautifully dressed in the costumes of the era.

The evening’s final piece Alvin Ailey’s own Revelations saw a massive troupe of dancers performing seemingly impossible feats to the sound of negro spirituals in a work that linked the three most powerful influences of the south, agriculture, religion and the vibrant music of cities like New Orleans. The result brought the cheering audience to its feet.

Saturday’s performance sees the company showcasing a different programme of works from their repertoire. Don’t miss it.

Alvin Ailey’s American Dance Theatre is at the Hippodrome until this evening (September 24). For tickets phone 0844 338 5000.

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