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In 1958, Alvin Ailey set out to choreograph the moral enlightenment of the African-American soul. Revelations was an immediate, irresistible success. It bridged the spiritually downtrodden condition of enslaved blacks and the spiritual ecstasy that free blacks experienced in Southern Baptist churches; it had a backbone that moved with the fluid pulp of sorrow and jubilation and everything in between.
Although constantly reapplying Revelations' crowd-pleasing principles eventually led the company into a twilight period after Ailey's death, contemporary choreographers are revitalizing the current repertory by capitalizing on the acute individual style and dexterity that describes the stereotypical Ailey dancer: undulating shoulders, rolling necks, supple backs—and razor-keen legs, so the body seems composed of two different species of shape cinched together at the waist. Two of the three programs scheduled to be performed here this tour begin with new works and wrap with Revelations—the red cherry on top where it used to be the icing and the cake.
Friday and Sunday's programs open with Wayne McGregor's Chroma (2006) and Ronald K. Brown's Four Corners (2013). In Chroma, a conspicuous tension builds when a female dancer, held by her partner in Superman poses and inverted back bends, becomes increasingly dissatisfied with his support. In Four Corners (2013), four dancers are angels holding the four winds, which would otherwise scatter and scorch mankind, stir up the seas, make wars. The angels contain the wind not by resisting it but rather by embodying it, in the same fashion that the heroine in Chroma contains her rage—and her powers.
Revelations, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, 2/28-3/9, various times, Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress, 800-987-2787, alvinailey.org, $32-$92.