Here’s Bob Gottlieb in the New York Observer:
Because it’s December, it’s also Alvin Ailey time–five weeks at the City Center. What is there left to say? The dancers are fabulous, the repertory isn’t. As usual, there are 20-odd performances of Revelations–it’s a ritual, the audience lapping it up from first to last. You feel they might not mind if it were done backwards. There was live music at the performance I saw, and it was so over-miked that it coarsened the whole experience.
(Read the whole thing here, including more on Ailey, New York City Ballet’s Nutcracker, and Never Gonna Dance.)
Devastating but true, and it goes a long way toward explaining why I’m not doing Ailey this year, and didn’t last year, either. I already know what good dancing looks like, and it’s not enough to get me into a theater unless it’s enlisted in the service of good choreography. Revelations is a good dance, perhaps even a great one, but the Ailey company does it so often that it’s lost its effect–I never see anything new in it anymore. Ailey’s other dances are terribly inconsistent in quality, and Judith Jamison has so far failed to give the company the kind of wide-ranging, high-quality repertory that would make its programs worth seeing on more than isolated occasions. Every once in a while Jamison manages to come up with something good (the company is doing a new dance by Lynne Taylor-Corbett, for instance, and I have no doubt that it’s worth seeing). But her batting average is far too low.
This is a fundamental problem of dance, by the way. How many modern-dance choreographers–or ballet choreographers, for that matter–have created a body of work sufficiently large and varied enough that it constitutes a working repertory all by itself? George Balanchine, Paul Taylor, Mark Morris, and maybe Merce Cunningham (and even Balanchine was smart enough to add Jerome Robbins to the mix, though he didn’t really need to). Period. As for all the others, well, you tell me: how many times can you see an all-Ailey, all-Robbins, all-Antony Tudor or all-Martha Graham program without glazing over? And why should you, for that matter? There’s no such thing as a symphony orchestra that plays nothing but Beethoven (though God knows there are times when it seems that way), an opera company that performs nothing but Puccini (ditto), or a theater company that produces nothing but No