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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater: Programme A review – ‘musicality and athleticism’

Alvin Ailey's Exodus at Sadler's Wells. Photo: Tristram Kenton Alvin Ailey's Exodus at Sadler's Wells. Photo: Tristram Kenton

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre is touring the UK with three varying programmes of work. The first of these features Exodus, the UK premiere of Rennie Harris’ Exodus, created in 2015 for the company, which bolts contemporary hip hop to a strong bassline. From an opening scene of grief and destruction, with dancers scattered face down upon the stage, rises an unexpectedly rousing work that proves this world-renowned company can bring as much aptitude to the fleet footwork of hip hop as it can to its famous lateral Ts.

Alongside Harris’ compelling opener is Ronald K Brown’s 2013 work, Four Seasons. Fusing contemporary movement with the elastic steps of African dance, it’s not a stand out piece, but there’s an infectious joy in the dancers that radiates through their rippling bodies.

Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain was originally created for New York City Ballet. Here, the pas de deux of Akua Noni Parker and Jamar Roberts lacks the soft delicacy that allows it to melt into Arvo Part’s cascading score. While technically strong, it’s only in the closing moments that the duet sighs into life.

As is traditional Revelations closes the bill. A series of short numbers set to a gospel and blues soundtrack, this Ailey staple first performed in 1960, still has an irrepressible joie de vivre. The dancers excel in this work. An athletic male trio set to the racing rhythms of Sinner Man is particularly exhilarating. It closes with the uplifting, praise-filled steps of Rocka My Soul.

Revelations remains a highlight of the Ailey programme, but in this opening bill of the company’s Sadler’s Wells run it has a strong contender in Harris’ Exodus.

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A formidable combination of musicality and athleticism strengthens an enjoyable, but mixed, programme