Ailey 2: The Next Generation of Dance – Birmingham Hippodrome

Reviewer: John Kennedy

Artistic Director: Francesca Harper

A ludicrous evening’s fanfare for the not-so-common man and woman has a segued programme of rather dark aspects with stage-side horizontal lighting the given muse that rumble-strip accentuates an ebony muscularity to brooding effect. As to the anticipated, Alvin Ailey celebratory denouement, white and para-soul food for the evergreen angels with flirty paces, Revelations(1960), now we know where Cecil Beaton drew his cinematic inspiration for the Royal Ascot tableau in My Fair Lady (1964).

Atavistic, bombast-ballistic brilliance, romantic fantasy fantastic – Alvin Ailey 2, a Dance Consortium conspiracy of collaborative, conspiratorial stealth by total body immersive expressionism, is back in town. Demonic laughter at the notion of gravity and physiological motion impossibilities, they cock a snook at Fate and be damned if they don’t. A miscellany of elegant, manipulated contained explosive, surrealistic eye orgies.

A tight evening’s programme includes three eclectic, electric and dazzling eccentric works concluding with the final, 1960 Ailey celebratory Revelations.A barnstormer, roller-coaster razzamatazz medley of Black Spiritual anthems that, counter-intuitively, froth wonderfully in crisp linen white costume, burning haystacks down with a centrifugal force of life-affirming, liberational, dance-to bonanza riffing Rock My Soul In the Bosom Of Abraham. After that, and there isn’t, sensibly, much else that they can follow with. Cue audience applause mayhem.

Lighting and Sound Supervisor, Ethan Salewitz’s ferociously indulgent stage wings horizontal projected lighting is fundamental to the realisation of Enemy In The Figure (excerpt) (1989) brooding with electronica dystopian menace. A regimental nuance of subtle shifting elastic gristle and grit.

But there’s then the matter of the The Hunt(2001). The synchronicity of testosterone pack-charged primal ritual, tucked neatly within Samurai cypher-suggestive wild-child hakama trouser swirling decadence and compressed violence. A gladiatorial ritual of peacock preening muscularity so volatile there’s a wonder the four combatants don’t slip on the testosterone-soaked dance-floor. Picture supercharged otters squirming and foaming in a crucible of seething hot olive oil. Just for a moment – then breathe gently. Wild things prowl a low, sun-setting savannah – blade light intensity cut loose. Choreographed by nominatively determined Robert Battle with an equally combative electronica score gone acoustic feral ferocious from Les Tambours du Bronx. A clue there, maybe. Bare-knuckle brilliance.

There are inexplicable spontaneous ties of Baroque spectacular, a lonesome, glitter-girl soul-resuscitated by a phalanx of luminous ball-carrying gentles. The more attempts to understand – the more nebulous the reason why not to even try. Soak up the dream-weavers’ spells. To attribute denotations to these nebulous shapeshifters would be as unfair and disparate silly as choosing a particular shining facet in a flawless diamond.

Ariel sprites and naiads of the night, Dance Consortium conspires to mug the five senses with a cornucopia of Pandoran un-boxed delights. Rainbows crash and squirm upon limitless canvases of sensuality. Immortals for precious moments consumed with dissecting reality. They’re really chancing their arms and legs provoking The Gods to jealousy. Bejewelled moths to life’s brief candle – worth a punt – end of.

Runs until 4 October 2023 and on tour

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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