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Saturday March 25th

Dance Review: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Alvin Ailey dance company lights up Memorial Hall

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performs at Memorial Hall on Saturday night. DTH/Zach Gutterman
Buy Photos The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performs at Memorial Hall on Saturday night. DTH/Zach Gutterman

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performers dance with so much joy it’s infectious.

It only took a few seconds of the first piece for the audience in Memorial Hall on Saturday to be drawn into that spirit, clapping, whistling and laughing with each movement of the performance.

The company, which is based in New York, gave two different performances this weekend as part of the Carolina Performing Arts series. The group has performed on campus during three of the last four seasons.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Memorial Hall
Dive verdict: 4.5 of 5 stars

Ailey dancers are known for their strength and athleticism, and both were on display from the outset Saturday. Early in the first movement of the piece “Night Creature,” choreographed by Ailey in 1974 to the music of Duke Ellington, one of the female dancers lifted her partner and carried him from the stage. It set the tone for a show packed with sustained leg extensions, huge leaps and grueling floor work.

During the final piece, the group’s signature gospel-inspired “Revelations,” dancer Matthew Rushing spent a good portion of his section doing a complicated — and painful-looking — series of abdominal exercises. In another section of that piece, another dancer did a slow promenade with her leg in a controlled extension and her body tilted forward, a difficult position to sustain.

But the power and athletic prowess are nothing compared to the sheer elation on the faces and in the movements of each dancer. That kind of performance forces audiences to overlook the small imperfections — some timing issues, feet that weren’t completely turned out and less-than-perfect arabesque lines — and instead become wrapped up in the fun.

And the audience definitely loved it, murmuring at the more impressive leaps, cheering during a section that looked like a highly stylized dance party, gasping when the middle piece, “Among Us,” ended in a flash of light with dancer Clifton Brown mid-jump, and applauding loudly the moment the lights came up on the iconic opening pose of “Revelations.”

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater delivered a spirited, joyful performance, showing the audience why Carolina Performing Arts keeps inviting the company back.

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