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Dance Review: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

April 10, 2011 | 12:00 pm

Getprev-2 A program that opens with a work called “Anointed” and ends with one called “Revelations” probably has something serious on its mind. That was the case when the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater kicked off a 10-performance run Friday at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion as part of the “Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at the Music Center” series.

“Revelations,” of course, is the beloved work that, astonishingly, is 51 years old yet still hits you with the force of a joyous revival meeting. “Anointed” is the troupe’s newest piece.

The seriousness concerns the company’s transition in leadership. Robert Battle takes over as artistic director from Judith Jamison on July 1.  Ailey’s chosen successor, Jamison has led the troupe since 1989, strengthening it, enlarging the repertory and purging the bumps and grinds that accreted on “Revelations” to reveal the clean, muscular frame beneath.

She is passing the torch now to Battle, who knows the responsibilities and standards he must uphold. One of his works on the tour, “The Hunt,” is serving as a kind of calling card. But more on that later.

Christopher L. Huggins’ “Anointed” is a three-part tribute to Ailey that begins in loneliness but ends in ecstasy — at a price. Choreographed in 2010 to music by Moby and Sean Clements, the work starts with a dark-clad figure (the formidable Jamar Roberts) alone, upstage and facing away from us. He seems to conjure up a muse (the superb Linda Celeste Sims), who for a time brightens his life. But then he walks away from her, and her image fractures into four parts — four identically dressed women who go on to assert their anger, strength and pride.

Ultimately, Roberts reappears, now in sacrificial white, to interact with Sims and a host of dancers who, in various combinations, bound across the stage. Instead of the expected happy reunion ending, however, Sims takes a stand by the side of dancer Daniel Harder, and Roberts is, as before, left alone. The joy of others comes at a cost.

Getprev-5 The work demanded much of the dancers, who rose admirably to the occasion. But the choreographer didn’t make the difficulties obvious stop-action circus tricks. He created a thoughtful, intriguing work.

Similarly, Battle’s “The Hunt” had all the ingredients for typical whoops and hollers: six bare-chested hunks dancing to the percussive music of Les Tambours du Bronx. Its seriousness, however, ruled out such easy responses. The men (Clifton Brown, Antonio Douthit, Matthew Rushing, Kirven James Boyd, Glenn Allen Sims and Roberts) enacted rituals of pursuit of prey, bonding in circular group formations or pairing off in fleetingly dominant and submissive relationships.

The piece, created in 2001, was relentless in its driving action, arresting in focus but elusive in meaning.

Between these two works was a solo with immediate, sassy appeal: Camille A. Brown’s “The Evolution of a Secured Feminine,” danced to songs sung by Ella Fitzgerald, Betty Carter and Nancy Wilson. Rachael McLaren was the soloist, witty and sophisticated in attitude, striking in body isolations and dramatic in text interpretation. She was both in and on top of the material.

“Revelations” itself was preceded by Judy Kinberg’s valuable short film, which included interviews of Ailey and Jamison, clips of Ailey dancing, historical footage of the civil-rights struggle and sources for Ailey’s inspirations.

The work, which premiered in 1960, included standout performances by the two Sims (“Fix Me, Jesus”) and Amos J. Machanic Jr. (“I Wanna Be Ready”). The company allowed only one reprise of “Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham.” 

The next Ailey era is at hand. It looks bright.

RELATED:

Alvin Ailey dances into L.A. with a Hancock Park party

"The Hunt" is on for Alvin Ailey Dance Theater

— Chris Pasles

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Ave., Los Angeles;
through April 17. $25 to $105. (213) 972-0711. Check website for full Glorya Kaufman series schedule and repertory.

Photos: Top, Glenn Allen Sims and Linda Celeste Sims in the "Fix Me, Jesus" portion of "Revelations."  Lower, members of the troupe in "Anointed." Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times

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