Tales of three Alvin Ailey dances

Posted: Thursday, February 14, 2002

"Isba,"a dance choreographed by Alvin Ailey, opens the evening with richly costumed characters preparing for a royal wedding.

"It's quite accessible. It's a very colorful, beautiful, romantic ballet," said Sylvia Waters, artistic director for Alvin Ailey II. "It's about a wedding - like an arranged marriage with a royal couple, with a high priest and high priestess and the royal court. It's kind of mythical."

A blend of ballet and modern dance, "Isba" also shows African tribal influences and borrows elements from ethnic dance.

"Isba" debuted in 1983. About 23 minutes long, the ballet is set to the music of pianist George Winston's "Autumn."

"Sensory Feast," is a new work, with an innovative set design using mirrors to heighten the theme of introspection. One reviewer called it impressive, "An edgy, twitchy piece of modern dance angst," set to an industrial soundtrack written specifically for the dance company by Dutch composer Rolf Ellmer.

"It's a more abstract piece and it has been very successful," Waters said. "It's a dark piece - it involves relationships between people, and the inner landscape of these people."

"Sensory Feast," was choreographed by Francesca Harper and debuted in 1999. It's 21 minutes long.

"Revelations," considered by many to be Ailey's masterwork, debuted in 1960.

"This has probably been performed for more people than any other dance work," Waters said. "It's up there with 'Swan Lake.' "

The 30-minute dance, a suite of nine dances in three sections, is set to the music of traditional African-American spirituals, holy blues and gospel songs.

"Alvin was celebrating the human condition," Waters said. "He was talking about the things that people have in common, whether it's pain, grief, joy or hope - all of that. It's inspired and powerful and therefore very inspiring."

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