Plymouth: one of 12 UK venues hosting top NY dance theatre company
The dozen young dancers of Ailey 2 are bringing their New York expression and energy to Plymouth for two nights only – on Tuesday 26th and Wednesday 27th September.
The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre’s second company (Ailey 2) is seen as being among the most talented of its generation.
Feedback following its performances highlight the strength, grace and soul which go into their emotional and powerful performances.
Ailey 2 was founded in 1974 as a bridge between The Ailey School and the professional dance world.
The team say their work is recognised for ‘merging the spirit and energy of the next generation of talented dancers with the creative vision of today’s most outstanding and emerging choreographers.’
Autumn sees their return to the UK for the first time since 2011. Their visit is for a Dance Consortium tour of twelve venues around the country.
Eleven of the venues have never hosted the company before – and all keen to bring some of the famous Ailey spirit to their audiences. The tour opened at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury earlier this week.
Ailey 2 in Alvin Ailey’s Revelations. Photography: Nir Ariel. Image provided by Theatre Royal Plymouth.
The company’s new artistic director is the internationally-renowned performer and choreographer, Francesca Harper.
Francesca Harper: an exhilarating repertoire by a diverse range of choreographers
Ailey 2 Artistic Director Francesca Harper. Photography: Nir Arieli. Image provided by Theatre Royal Plymouth.
Francesca has put together an exhilarating repertoire by a diverse range of choreographers which includes a timeless classic from Alvin Ailey himself.
‘Revelations’ is the company’s signature piece and has been seen by more than 23 million people in 71 countries. It’s one of the most viewed pieces of modern dance work and was choreographed by Alvin Ailey in 1960 (when he was just 29 years old).
The work has been described as ‘life-changing’ and draws upon ‘African American spirituals, song-sermons, gospel songs and holy blues.’
The team says that, ‘Revelations explores the deepest reaches of the soul. Ailey said that one of America’s richest treasures was the cultural heritage of the African American and this enduring classic is a tribute both to that heritage and Ailey’s genius.’
The company will perform the intensely propulsive central section of William Forsythe’s 1989 work, Enemy in the Figure.
The choreography is driven by Thom Willem’s percussive and rhythmic electronic score which also influences the radical use of light and shadow in its design.
It puts the formidable dance skills of the Ailey 2 dancers on fine display, giving their craft and vitality an invigorating framework.
Robert Battle is Artistic Director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. His 2001 classic The Hunt is a primal ritual with a distinctly urban feel fuelled by a thundering percussion soundtrack by Les Tambours du Bronx. He found inspiration for the work in his background in martial arts.
Ailey 2 in Robert Battle’s The Hunt. Photography: Nan Melville. Image provided by Theatre Royal Plymouth.
Exploring the relationship between ‘modern sports and the rites of the gladiators’
The team say the work is highly athletic and was ‘originally choreographed for six male dancers.’
It adds that it ‘explores the relationship between modern sports and the rites of the gladiators, revealing the predatory side of human nature and the primitive thrill of the hunt.’
Francesca Harper created her futuristic work Freedom Series on the company in 2021. Inspired by her Ailey homecoming, she has created a landscape of memories, a hybrid world where the past strives to influence the future.
Developed in collaboration with the Ailey 2 dancers, Harper’s work examines identity and community.
The dancers of Ailey 2 for the 2023/24 season are: Andrew Bryant; Spencer Everett; Jaryd Farcon; Maya Finman-Palmer; Patrick Gamble; Alfred L. Jordan II; Kiri Moore; Corinth Moulterie; Kali Marie Oliver; Tamia Strickland; Kayla Mei-Wan Thomas; and Maggy van den Heuvel.
New Ailey 2 artistic director Francesca Harper embodies the strong family ethos reflected by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre and Ailey 2.
Francesca took her first dance steps at The Ailey School, the official school of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, where her mother Denise Jefferson was director (1984 – 2010). She aims to bring fresh perspectives to Ailey’s legacy, while nurturing new creative voices and propelling the company forward.
The company has an extensive community outreach programme. For this Dance Consortium UK tour, the programme includes masterclasses, open rehearsals and workshops alongside special projects being hosted by member venues as part of the Ailey Project UK.
Dance Consortium is a group of 18 large-scale theatres with a mission to bring the best international dance to stages across the UK and Ireland.
Tickets can be booked via the TRP website: https://theatreroyal.com