In its twenty-fifth season since the passing of its founder, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater continues to widen its repertoire by looking both to the past and the future. For its current season, which runs through January 5 at City Center, AADT is presenting the world premieres of Ronald K. Brown’s Four Corners and Aszure Barton’s Lift, the company premieres of Bill T. Jones’s D-Man in the Waters (Part 1) and Wayne McGregor’s Chroma, and new productions of Alvin Ailey’s Pas de Duke and The River. On December 26, an all-new program began with a stirring, sexually charged version of British choreographer McGregor’s 2006 Chroma. Featuring a loud, aggressive score by Jody Talbot with orchestrations by the White Stripes’ Jack White, Chroma takes place on British minimalist John Pawson’s ever-more-surprising set, which changes colors courtesy of Lucy Carter’s lighting and offers an inventive backdrop that becomes much more than it first appears. Restaged by longtime Wayne McGregor | Random Dance member Antoine Vereecken, Chroma is a physically exertive twenty-nine-minute ballet performed by ten dancers who often get up close and very personal with one another, beginning with a bold pas de deux in which a woman suggestively sniffs up a man’s body before they attack each other. Interestingly, the men and women wear the same costume, a rectangular top held up by spaghetti straps, over a barely there bottom.
Canadian choreographer Aszure Barton’s Ailey commission, Lift, is driven by Curtis Macdonald’s heavily percussive score, which leads the company through twenty-five energetic minutes, the men sweaty and bare-chested, the women elegant in Fritz Masten’s feathery skirts. The dancers often use their feet as rhythmic instruments in a piece that Barton built based on her interaction with the performers, and the joy they display onstage is contagious, especially during a lovely solo by rehearsal director and guest artist Matthew Rushing, who was honored with a special program on December 17. With this commission, third-year artistic director Robert Battle is once again exploring exciting new ventures for AAADT.
The evening concluded with associate artistic director Masazumi Chaya’s restaging of Ailey’s 1970 ballet, The River, which Ailey choreographed for ABT in 1970 and added to the company repertoire ten years later. Set to the music of Duke Ellington, The River is divided into eight sections, exploring birth, life, and rebirth using water as a continuing metaphor as the dancers make their way beautifully through such parts as “Spring,” “Meander,” “Lake,” and “Falls,” highlighted by Megan Jakel and Daniel Harder’s pas de deux in “Giggling Rapids” and Hope Boykin’s solo in “Vortex” while showcasing several awe-inspiring men’s bodies throughout. For thirty-four wonderful minutes, The River melds classical and contemporary movement in Ailey’s trademark style, a fitting end to a terrific evening of dance. Chroma can be seen again on January 2, Lift on January 2 and 4, and The River on January 5.