Alvin Ai­ley Amer­i­can Dance The­ater

The Alvin Ai­ley Amer­i­can Dance The­ater re­turns to de­light At­lanta au­di­ences dur­ing its an­nual res­i­dency

GA Voice - - Front Page - By DARYL FOSTER

World renowned dance com­pany re­turns to Fox Theatre

Per­fect brown bod­ies, vir­tu­osic tech­ni­cal feats, and “Rev­e­la­tions” of epic dance pro­por­tions sig­nify the Alvin Ai­ley Amer­i­can Dance The­ater’s re­turn on Feb. 10 to the Fox Theatre. “Ai­ley Week” at the Fox has be­come a tra­di­tion for many dance en­thu­si­asts in At­lanta. The leg­endary dance com­pany con­tin­ues to fill the 4,600-seat theatre with each per­for­mance, which is no mod­est ac­com­plish­ment for an in­di­vid­ual star, but it’s ex­pected of the dance com­pany touted as the “Cul­tural Am­bas­sadors to The World.”

The Alvin Ai­ley Dance The­ater’s rep­u­ta­tion is deeply rooted in the work of its name­sake, most no­tably in “Rev­e­la­tions,” a soul-stir­ring work that chron­i­cles the south­ern black ex­pe­ri­ence through move­ment and Ne­gro spir­i­tu­als. Robert Bat­tle, who is cel­e­brat­ing his 5th sea­son as artis­tic di­rec­tor, has crafted a de­light­ful sea­son and will be show­cas­ing nine works in At­lanta, in­clud­ing two works of his own, “No Longer Silent,” a large en­sem­ble work set to Er­win Schul­hoff’s per­cus­sion score, “Oge­lala,” and “Awak­en­ing,” Bat­tle’s first world pre­miere with the com­pany since tak­ing over as artis­tic di­rec­tor.

Other At­lanta pro­gram high­lights in­clude a re­turn of Ron­ald K. Brown of “Ron­ald K. Brown Ev­i­dence, A Dance Com­pany,” an Ai­ley fa­vorite. Brown of­fers “Open Door,” a work in­flu­enced by mul­ti­ple trips to Cuba, that de­picts the heavy in­flu­ences of that cul­ture, set to the Afro-Latin jazz mu­sic of Ar­turo O’Far­rill.

Ren­nie Har­ris, an­other re­turn­ing chore­o­graphic cham­pion, brings a vi­tal work to the reper­tory through hip-hop ver­nac­u­lar from the streets of Philadel­phia for his new work, “Ex­o­dus,” un­der­scored by gospel and house mu­sic.

Up close with Daniel Harder

To get a closer look into the in­ner work­ings of the Ai­ley Com­pany, Ge­or­gia Voice caught up with dancer Daniel Harder, a stand­out Ai­ley per­former and for­mer pro­tégé of dance in­dus­try leg­end Deb­bie Allen, ahead of his trek to At­lanta with the Ai­ley dancers. The Mary­land na­tive pro­vides a glimpse into the com­pany’s At­lanta res­i­dency and in­sight into his ex­pe­ri­ence as an openly gay dancer in one of the world’s most beloved mod­ern dance com­pa­nies.

Ge­or­gia Voice: What is it about the Alvin Ai­ley Amer­i­can Dance The­ater that con­nects most with your spirit and au­di­ences, es­pe­cially LGBT au­di­ences?

Daniel Harder:

What con­nects most with me about danc­ing with the Alvin Ai­ley Amer­i­can Dance The­ater is the fact that we are en­cour­aged to em­brace our most au­then­tic selves and share that within all of the di­verse reper­tory that we per­form. I know that Mr. Ai­ley of­ten said that his dancers should be re­flec­tions of their au­di­ences, and that no­tion is some­thing that I be­lieve in whole­heart­edly. No mat­ter what makeup or back­ground, ev­ery­one that comes to an Ai­ley per­for­mance can see, feel and con­nect with some­one or some­thing they wit­ness on the stage … and that’s be­cause we fuel our craft with our own life ex­pe­ri­ences.

De­scribe “Rev­e­la­tions’” uni­ver­sal con­nec­tion from the per­spec­tive of a dancer and an LGBT per­son liv­ing a legacy sev­eral gen­er­a­tions af­ter the work premiered.

“Rev­e­la­tions” con­nects with au­di­ences all over the world be­cause of its all-en­com­pass­ing themes. The idea of a jour­ney that be­gins with the deep­est grief and sor­row and ends in a cel­e­bra­tion of spirit and joy is some­thing that any­one can re­late to re­gard­less of race, re­li­gion, eth­nic­ity, or sex­ual iden­tity (in­clud­ing my­self ). As a dancer, I re­late to the sim­plic­ity and au­then­tic­ity of Mr. Ai­ley’s move­ment. Al­though rooted in some of mod­ern dance’s more tra­di­tional vo­cab­u­lary, I think the chore­og­ra­phy does a bril­liant job of high­light­ing and com­mu­ni­cat­ing the jour­ney that the bal­let takes its dancers on; whether it’s a con­trac­tion show­ing angst and pain or even the rip­ple of the arms and spine like wa­ter to sym­bol­ize the spirit of a bap­tism. It’s the hon­esty of the bal­let and those prin­ci­ples that pro­vide me the free­dom to sub­merge into a work that has lived on for the last 56 years, and ev­ery time I try and bring my most au­then­tic self to it.

Can you share a reper­tory high­light from the At­lanta pro­gram?

There are two works that I am very ex­cited to share with our At­lanta au­di­ences. Robert Bat­tle’s “Awak­en­ing” is our artis­tic di­rec­tor’s first chore­o­graphic work since tak­ing the helm of the com­pany, and it ex­plores the ideas of chaos and res­o­lu­tion, dis­so­nance and har­mony all to a very propul­sive score. Also, Ron­ald K. Brown’s “Open Door” fuses his sig­na­ture style of mod­ern and African dance vo­cab­u­lar­ies with Afro-Cuban jazz mu­sic, and I’m sure it will be a crowd pleaser.

Alvin Ai­ley dancer Daniel Harder part­ners Rachel McLaren (Photo by An­drew Ec­cles)

Mem­bers of the 2015-2016 Alvin Ai­ley Amer­i­can Dance The­ater tour­ing com­pany. (Photo by An­drew Ec­cles)

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