Performing Arts
© Mike Keenan

Brock University's Centre for the Arts , St Catharines
Ailey II - Exciting dance at Brock's Centre for the Arts!

In the talent-hungry professional sports world, rookies emerge from the minors. The parent Blue Jays summon their baseball hopefuls from the Buffalo Bisons; the hockey Leafs, from the Marlies. In dance, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has the luxury of Ailey II that performed to standing ovations recently at Brock University's Centre for the Arts during an international multi-city tour that takes them to France, Germany, Canada and throughout the U.S.

At the David S. Howes Theatre, I watched three pieces - breakthrough, Hissy Fits and Revelations. Breakthrough I enjoyed the most, the stunningly new choreography (2014) by Manuel Vignoulle with music and noises interplaying, the dancers agility, power and grace constantly tested. The 2006 Hissy Fits by choreographer Dwight Rhoden (a former Ailey star dancer) depicts the tumultuous and ambivalent nature of human relationships with J.S. Bach's piano music, a powerful backdrop to the high-voltage interplay of five couples, each of whom feels the ripple effect of a series of 'hissy fits,' emotional impulses, that reverberate in this work. Revelations is Alvin Ailey's 1960 signature piece. He employs African-American spirituals, song-sermons, gospel songs and holy blues to explore the deepest grief and holiest joy in the soul, a fitting sendoff for any audience.

In 1974, Ailey II began as a training program for young dancers in the same fashion as the Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre was founded in 1998 at Stratford by the Festival's Artistic Director, Richard Monette to prepare talented young actors for the rigours and specific requirements of acting in classical theatre. Soon, Ailey II became known as a formidable performance company in its own right that presented a bold vision of historic and contemporary Ailey choreography with the guidance of artistic director Sylvia Waters. Now under the artistic direction of Troy Powell, they perform a diverse repertory of Alvin Ailey's timeless classics and thrilling new works by outstanding emerging choreographers.

I marveled at their poise, fluidity, musculature, energy and interpretations, and after the performance, Powell and three of his young dancers remained for a brief Q&A session. We learned that this troupe involves dancers aged 18-25, and that within three years, they graduate to the main theatre program, start their own dance companies or latch on with other professional organizations.

Powell, only the second artistic director of Ailey II, has been guiding the company through its 40th anniversary season. He described the deep sense of honour at being chosen, and related interesting personal facts such as being selected by Alvin Alley at the tender age 9 to develop in the dance company.

I have been fortunate to see the principal company masterfully perform in Toronto and New York City, and now, thanks to Brock's Centre for the Arts, I have been provided with a glimpse into the future. Based upon this performance, the future looks bright!

Next up in dance at Brock is the Toronto Dance Theatre (A Rare Mix), Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015, one of Canada's leading dance companies.

Ailey II in Streams

Ailey II in Alchemies

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