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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater: Programme B review at Sadler’s Wells – ‘compelling mixed bill’

A scene from En by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at Sadler's Wells. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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The theme of destiny runs through the second mixed programme presented by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at Sadler’s Wells. It’s another compelling bill, rounded off with Ailey’s soulful signature piece Revelations.

First up is Jessica Lang’s atmospheric 2018 ensemble work EN, set to a soundscape of portentous drum rolls, tick-tocks and clockwork cranking. The title refers to the Japanese word for circularity and karma (among other meanings) and there’s an intriguingly fateful certainty to the way each dancer propels themselves through streams of tight turns and the sheer, semaphoring lines of their limbs.

If the score gets a little plodding, a resonant sense of unpredictability still emerges, with individual figures giving way to explosive surges of energy and corrugated shapes, as if dancing on the recalcitrant current of life.

It’s followed by Ronald K Brown’s The Call (also from last year), a short but gorgeous quintet that celebrates Ailey’s compulsion to dance and choreograph, showcasing the protean blend of movement styles that formed his particular idiom. So we get a felicitously dynamic combination of loose, grooving hips and beautifully articulated shoulder rolls, plumb-line balletic poise and some irresistibly joyous jazz.

Artistic director Robert Battle’s 2003 piece Juba, a re-imagining of the Rite of Spring for four dancers in teal tunics, is a little less successful. John Mackey’s music mimics the strident, serrated energy of Stravinsky, but the overall effect is tinny and a tad cheesy, as the excellent dancers outstrip the lurching, jerkily compulsive choreographic material.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater: Lazarus/Revelations review at Sadler’s Wells, London – ‘superbly danced’

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New works stand out in another excellently performed mixed bill from the Alvin Ailey company