Ailey 2 – Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s second company – is among the most talented of its generation, pouring strength, grace and soul into emotional and powerful performances that captivate audiences around the world. Founded in 1974 as a bridge between The Ailey School and the professional dance world, Ailey 2 is recognised for merging the spirit and energy of the next generation of talented dancers with the creative vision of today’s most outstanding and emerging choreographers.
This autumn they return to the UK for the first time since 2011 for a Dance Consortium tour of twelve venues around the country, eleven of which have never hosted the company before, all keen to bring some of the famous Ailey spirit to their audiences.
The company’s new artistic director Francesca Harper (internationally-renowned performer and choreographer) has put together an exhilarating repertoire by a diverse range of choreographers which includes a timeless classic from Alvin Ailey himself.
Revelations, the company’s signature piece, was choreographed by Ailey when he was only 29 years old in 1960. A life-changing work, it has been seen by more than 23 million people in 71 countries, more than any other modern dance work. Using African American spirituals, song-sermons, gospel songs and holy blues, Revelations explores the deepest reaches of the soul. Ailey said that one of America’s richest treasures was the cultural heritage of the African American and this enduring classic is a tribute both to that heritage and Ailey’s genius.
"There's nothing like an evening spent with Ailey 2, the younger version of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater"
Enemy in the Figure (excerpt, 18 minutes) is the intensely propulsive central section of William Forsythe’s eponymous work. Originally created in Germany (1989) for his ensemble, Ballet Frankfurt, the full work has been performed in major venues across the globe. Thom Willem’s percussive and rhythmically driving electronic score was the source of the works choreographic invention and influenced the radical use of light and shadow in the original stage design. This excerpt puts the formidable dance skills of the Ailey II dancers on fine display, giving their craft and vitality an invigorating framework.
Inspired by her Ailey homecoming, Francesca Harper’s Freedom Series (excerpt, 15 minutes) travels through a landscape of memories creating a series of vignettes that embody and imagine a hybrid world where memory strives to influence the future. Depicted through this futuristic lens, and developed in collaboration with the Ailey 2 dancers, Harper’s work examines identity and community. With costumes by designer Elias Gurrola and a score featuring a blend of acoustic and electronic sounds, Freedom Series’ unexpected twists and turns bridge tender moments to its intrinsic ferocity.
Robert Battle’s athletic work reveals the predatory side of human nature and the primitive thrill of the hunt. A thundering percussion soundtrack by Les Tambours du Bronx drives the explosive movement that runs the gamut from modern sports to the rituals of the gladiators in Battle’s The Hunt (14 minutes).
Using African-American spirituals, song-sermons, gospel songs and holy blues—Alvin Ailey’s Revelations (36 minutes) fervently explores the places of deepest grief and holiest joy in the soul. Ailey said that one of America’s richest treasures was the cultural heritage of the African-American —”sometimes sorrowful, sometimes jubilant, but always hopeful.” This enduring classic is a tribute to that heritage and to Ailey’s genius.
Running time: 115 minutes (2 intervals)
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and Ailey 2 are companies with a strong family ethos. New Ailey 2 artistic director Francesca Harper embodies this. She took her first dance steps at The Ailey School, the official school of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, where her mother Denise Jefferson was director from 1984-2010. Harper aims to bring fresh perspectives to Ailey’s legacy, while nurturing new creative voices and propelling the company forward.
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