Ailey 2, the second company of New York’s Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, arrives at The Lowry mid-way through its first UK tour in over a decade.
The company, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, is renowned for giving exceptional young dancers their first professional roles. And this mixed-programme, of four pieces, provides the perfect platform to showcase their talent and energy.
An excerpt from William Forsythe’s 1989 Enemy in the Figure makes for a dramatic opening. The piece, originally written for Forsythe’s ensemble, Ballet Frankfurt, allows each of the 12-strong company to shine individually. Thom Willem’s electronic score drives the dancers’ athleticism and precision of movement, their feathered pants capturing the speed as they spin against the light.
The lighting literally takes centre stage in the second piece of the evening, an excerpt from Freedom Series. This is the newest of the four pieces, created in 2021 by the company’s artistic director, Francesca Harper. Music ranging from Jon Hopkins psychedelic ‘Welcome’ to Bach’s ‘Double Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor’ forms a varied soundtrack to a series of atmospheric vignettes which feel almost extra-terrestrial as they dance with glowing orbs.
After the abstractness of the first two pieces the final two in the programme have a clearer narrative. The Hunt, choreographed by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre’s current artistic director, Robert Battle makes for a rousing crowd-pleaser. The piece, first performed in 2001 has lot none of its primal power. The deep tribal beats of Les Tambours du Bronx soundtrack drives the action, as the strength and energy of the dancers makes for a thrilling chase.
The programme closes with Alvin Ailey’s 1960 classic, Revelations which explores the cultural heritage of African Americans through the emotive praise and lamentations of gospel music. I remember seeing Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre perform this piece years ago and it is one that sticks in the mind because it creates that rare moment where you’re moved by an exhilarating response that makes you want to jump out of your seat with joy.
This young company bring a freshness to the piece that keeps that infectious energy flowing and the crowd naturally responded on Friday’s performance at The Lowry with a spontaneous ovation. These young people are the future of dance, and it’s already dazzling.