The Dance Electric

Three weekends ago, Alvin Ailey Dance Theater did a show at Manhattan’s City Center backed by Wynton Marsalis and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra for Ailey’s 50th anniversary. All Duke Ellington tunes, all night long. (Except for that ol chestnut, “Revelations.”) I’m up on dance companies like Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane and Ronald K. Brown/Evidence but I’ve never seen them. Pas contre, the Ailey Christmas show was always part of my arty(-farty) NYC social life for years and years. Bring a date and go next December, it’ll be a hot ticket forever and ever.

(God, who have I taken to this thing over the years? Big shout to Zoë, Katherine, Caille, Nikki, Angela, Elsa, Simone…)

“The River” was a legendary 1970 collabo between Ellington and Ailey, with classical ballet and jazz styles melded together to represent a birth, death and rebirth thing. “Pas de Duke” was originally choreographed for current Ailey artist director Judith Jamison and Mikhail Barysnikov back in 1976, that night featuring dancers Matthew Rushing and Linda Celeste Sims mirroring each other toe-to-toe and line-for-line. Absolutely beautiful dancers by the way. (Did I forget to date a dancer?)

Three years ago, Ailey in summertime Paris was the greatest show I’d ever seen, mainly due to the venue: outdoors in the 18th century Jardins des Archives Nationales for the annual Les Étés de la Danse de Paris. But that Sunday night brought back memories. Wynton Marsalis and the live orchestra stood onstage in the wings (later in the pit for “Revelations”) marking the first time I’d seen the troupe do their thing to live music like they used to way back. “The Road of the Phoebe Snow” was a highlight from the gate, an interpretation of incidents that might have occurred by the side of the Lackawanna Railroad Line and a train named the Phoebe Snow.

The night was rounded out by “The Mooche,” “Caravan” and “Three Black Kings,” and well worth the cold. Since early college, I immersed myself in plays (Black and Blue, various August Wilson joints), Ailey performances, museum exhibits, book readings and music concerts, trying to figure out where I fit in all this art. Thanks for the memories, Ailey.