A trio of new works, including a piece choreographed by an Ailey alum, will conclude Ailey II’s residency with their final performance at 8:15 p.m. Wednesday in the Amphitheater.
“Stream of Consciousness” is a 23-minute piece choreographed by Marcus Jarrell Willis, an alumnus of both Ailey II and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Troy Powell, Ailey II’s artistic director, said it’s reflective of some of Willis’ experiences as a student at The Ailey School, down to the costumes, which resemble private school uniforms. A stirring, capricious rendition of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons by Max Richter accompanies the piece. At times, the dancers’ movements are delicate and flowing; at others, they are choppy and rigid, creating an artful mélange of modern, hip-hop, ballet and other styles.
“It’s a very interesting, sort of dark piece,” said Powell, who remembers teaching Willis as a young dancer at The Ailey School. “Stream of Consciousness” moves through different elements of “the stream,” the turbulent monologue that goes on inside of a person’s head. Daydreaming, sleepwalking, insomnia and other states of mind are all communicated within the piece.
“Circular” is a 28-minute piece choreographed by Jae Man Joo that blends classical and contemporary ballet to capture a broad range of human emotions. The piece, which was commissioned by Ailey II and is less than a year old, makes use of over five different classical pieces, including compositions by George Frideric Handel and Edison Denisov. Martell Ruffin, one of the dancers, describes “Circular” as both technical and quirky.
“It’s all about starting at that one point and us circling around to working together,” Powell said. “I think that that’s important especially for a dance company because, yes, we’re our own individuals, but we’re working up to working with each other as a community.”
The company is known for its commitment to community outreach and engagement, even while touring around the world. Outside of its evening performances at Chautauqua Institution, Ailey II has offered three master classes, two lectures, and performed on Bestor Plaza. This afternoon’s lecture at 5 p.m. in the Amphitheater features a demonstration by the dancers, of different techniques used within some of the pieces performed during their residency.
Ailey II features an ever-changing ensemble of dancers who are trained in ballet and well-versed in modern, contemporary and other styles of dance. The dancers, who typically range in age from 18-30, stay with the company for two years before moving onto the next step in their career.
The performance closes out with “Sketches of Flames”, a 25-minute piece choreographed by Bridget L. Moore, Dallas Black Dance Theatre’s new artistic director. Moore drew from flamenco, African-American and contemporary dance aesthetics for the piece that is propelled by a series of Latin folk songs and “Gipsy Flamenco” ballads.
“It really talks about how, yes, we dance with our bodies, and yes, we move with our bodies, but how we can become a paintbrush and how can we sketch on this canvas with our bodies,” said Powell, who likened the stage to a canvas. “It’s so powerful, so well-choreographed.”
The eight-section work explores how love can oscillate between jaunts of joy and sorrow.
“We’re always excited to perform and we’re always excited to touch people,” Powell said. “When we perform, we celebrate.”