This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001



Yannick Lebrun and Jacqueline Green perform in Alvin Ailey premiere of Jirí Kylián's PETITE MORT (photo by Paul Kolnik)

New York City Center
130 West 56th St. between Sixth & Seventh Aves.
Through December 30, $25-$135

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s all-new program on December 16 was one of the most exciting nights of dance of the year. The evening began with the company premiere of Czech choreographer Jiří Kylián’s Petite Mort, commissioned for the 1991 Salzburg Festival honoring the two hundredth anniversary of the death of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Set to Mozart’s Piano Concerto in A Major – Adagio and Piano Concerto in C Major – Andante, the eighteen-minute piece starts off with six male dancers standing over fencing foils, which they soon pick up and slice through the air. Meanwhile, a half dozen women linger in the background, hovering behind black Baroque dresses that they soon push across the floor. It’s a wildly imaginative work that balances humor with seriousness as it conjures up thoughts of war and mutilation. (Petite Mort will also be performed December 23, 26, and 30 as part of Ailey’s annual month-long season at City Center.) After a pause, Renaldo Gardner and Michael Francis McBride took the stage for the company premiere of Ailey artistic director Robert Battle’s Strange Humors, a short, energetic duet, originally choreographed for Parsons Dance Company in 1998, in which the bare-chested dancers, in bright orange Missoni pants redesigned by Jon Taylor, deliriously shake, move, and groove to a score by John Mackey that mixes African percussion with Middle Eastern melodies. The title comes from a quote by Maya Angelou: “When I think of death, and of late the idea has come with alarming frequency, I seem at peace with the idea that a day will dawn when I will no longer be among those living in this valley of strange humors.” (Strange Humors is also scheduled for December 19, 22, 26, 27, 28, and 30.)

Ronald K. Brown’s rapturous GRACE is more dazzling than ever in new Ailey production (photo by Paul Kolnik)

After the first of two intermissions, AAADT presented the world premiere of hot choreographer Kyle Abraham’s Another Night, a sort-of sequel to the Ailey classic “Night Creature.” Set to Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers’ version of Dizzy Gillespie’s “A Night in Tunisia,” the sixteen-minute piece is led by Rachael McLaren, shimmering in a blue dress and gliding across the stage, joined by nine other dancers in bright clothing who are enjoying a night on the town, checking out one another’s moves, pairing off into duets (possible pick-ups?), and just generally having a great time. (The fun will be repeated December 19, 22, 27, and 30.) The evening concluded with a stunning new production of Ronald K. Brown’s Grace, which was commissioned for AAADT in 1999. The remarkable Linda Celeste Sims emerges from behind a scrim in the back, under white light, in a white dress, elegantly dancing to Jimmy McPhail singing Duke Ellington’s “Come Sunday.” As the music shifts to Roy Davis Jr., Paul Johnson, and Fela Kuti, Sims is joined by four other women and six men (including guest artist and former Ailey star Matthew Rushing) in red or white costumes by Omatayo Wunmi Olaiya. Incorporating Brown’s trademark West African–influenced movement, the dancers reach for the sky, seeking enlightenment as sinners (in red) become angels (in white) and look toward heaven. Grace is an exhilarating, rapturous work, filled with an innate, infectious spirituality that resonates throughout the audience. (Grace continues December 19, 23, 26, and 30.)