Review: Ailey 2. Nottingham Royal Concert Hall

Based in New York, Ailey 2 is all about nurturing the best in emerging, early-career dance talent, showcasing their incredible ability and propelling them into the professional sphere, over an intensive two-year tenure. And what a talent they are. It is a joy and privilege to see such a diverse company of young dancers embarking on the beginning of their careers.  

Teamwork and togetherness is clearly fundamental for Artistic Director, Francesca Harper; each piece is choreographed for an ensemble, and not for one individual dancer (though each gets their moment to shine), and their synchronisation and bond is evident throughout. The company this evening includes 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, Maggy van den Heuvel.  

The audience jump as the first percussive note strikes for the beginning of the first piece, ‘Enemy in the figure’. The movement is frenetic, and full of intensity and drama, and this is reflected in Thom Willem’s atmospheric score. Centred around light and shadow, William Forsythe’s original choreography contains a fludity of movement, punctuated with sharp, angular shapes; the movement is constant, even through the silence, and is accentuated by the striking black costumes against a black backdrop. Lighting is employed to mark the shift from light to shadow, switching from stark bright white to an almost sepia effect, where warm light mixes with more sensual movement to create the shadow. It is an evocative piece where every movement is purposeful and definite, and the dancers show their stamina and athleticism, as well as wonderful fluidity as they move between shapes.  

Next is ‘Freedom Series’, choreographed by Francesca Harper herself, and contains a series of vignettes portraying memories, set to a score which features music from a selection of artists, including Jon Hopkins, Esperanza Spalding, Sampha and Bach, and moves between electronic sounds, to more relaxed acoustic numbers. It is a highly emotive piece, and the most effective part of this dance is the use of light orbs, carried by some of the dancers as a symbol of hope and vitality; it is an exploration of community, with an embodiment of  a ‘leave no man behind’ mentality, literally dragging each other along in a show of unity, while the anguish of those on the outside is beautifully portrayed by the dancers in this piece.  

The third piece steals the show, for me; entitled ‘Hunt’, with original choreography by Robert Battle restaged by Elisa Clark, it is carnal and visceral. There is an almost ritualistic, tribal feel to this dance, with rhythmically repetitive movements set to an earthy, percussive score by Les Tambours du Bronx. The four dancers featured are, for the first time in the company’s history of performing this piece (what a treat!), a mixture of male and female presenting dancers, and this lends itself to the androgyny of the movement. I found this piece mesmerising, and the animalistic, primal choreography is brought to life with skill and commitment by the quartet performing it; their perfect synchronisation is almost unsettling at times, which further adds to the effect.  

‘Revelations’ is the final piece, and is a display of spirituality and worship, in its many forms. The mixture of gospel, African-American spirituals, song-sermons and holy blues which make up the score for this piece are a tribute to Ailey’s mission to celebrate African-American heritage in dance, and make it an absolute joy to watch. There is beautiful use of colour in this piece, which sets it apart from the other three, and the costumes add a sense of nostalgia and character which is brought out with style by the dancers, who capture the celebratory feel of the piece.  

A wonderful celebration of diversity, this show is evocative, emotive and visually captivating from that first percussive beat to the gospel soul at the heart of the final dance. An absolute must-see for anyone wanting to see the creativity and expression that dance has to offer.  

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