A vintage performance from exponents of modern dance

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 October, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 October, 2004, 12:00am

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre

The Academy for Performing Arts

Last performance yesterday

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre returned to Hong Kong on Saturday after an absence of 19 years and won loud ovations from an enthusiastic audience in its opening programme. Three of the four ballets were by its founder, Alvin Ailey, one of the most famous modern-dance choreographers of the 20th century.

Since his untimely death in 1989, the company has been under the direction of Judith Jamison. The company's current crop of dancers is in vintage form. All 31 are dancing with a core of technical strength, as well as with humanity and spontaneity, conveying a morality to each ballet.

The first night climaxed with Ailey's greatest work, Revelations (1960), one of the masterpieces of 20th century dance. Set to a suite of gospel songs, this deeply religious work gradually builds up from solemnity through repentance to a cathartic celebration. The highlights consist of a dignified balletic duet, beautifully danced by Linda Celeste Sims and Glenn Allen Sims, a yearning solo expressively danced by Amos Machanic, as well as an energetic male trio danced with panache. The ensemble dances were also powerful.

Opening the programme was Ailey's more light-hearted work Night Creature, set to Duke Ellington's music. Fun and humour abound in this work which has some interesting group configurations.

This was followed by a plaintive solo Cry which was dedicated by Ailey to 'all black women everywhere'. Linda-Denise Fisher-Harrell illuminated the solo with authority and absolute conviction. She is blessed with an ironclad technique and her expressive upper body movements were sculpturally voluminous.

A good contrast to Ailey's humanistic style was provided by a virtuosic ballet, Episodes, choreographed by Ulysses Dove, full of bold and incisive movements enhanced by strong lighting effects.

The men coped marvellously with those daring split-timing lifts of their female partners, with their technical strength impressive.