Sunday, February 8, 2015

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater -- Kennedy Center - Feb 7 2015

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater - Although this is not the sort of live music event I write about here, I wanted to use this excellent show as a discussion point for something I have thought about a lot the last year. First, this 57-year old dance New York based dance company did an excellent job with the three programs they presented here during their week-long run in DC. The first act was a recent choreography by Matthew Rushing to the songs of Odetta. I loved the music and the dancing was vibrant and well integrated into the songs, including a powerful version of Dylan's 'Masters of War'. The second piece was more muscular and modern and was done to the music of Laurie Anderson and Peter Gabriel. The third piece had a large company showing great energy interpreting various classic spirituals in a choreography from Alvin Ailey, first performed in 1960. This was an uplifting show where one could marvel at the skilled dancers, while deeply reflecting on the music. Their run ends today, but I highly recommend them when they next come to town.
The point of writing this up was something I have been thinking about as I have become more selective in choosing musical events to cover. Last year, my top show was an outstanding Chinese band, Second Hand Rose, who were extremely skilled as players, but had a theatrical presentation with costumes and some spoken word parts offsetting the music. I have also seen great shows in the past such as Presto Bando putting on a 'soccer musical' with all new music telling a full story song by song. It was not exactly Broadway bound, but it was dazzling with the way it stood out from the usual shows around town. I also saw a 12 foot puppet show acting out a song cycle as well from a now defunct local band. These types of shows really work the senses so much more than four guys in jeans standing around with their guitars and drums.

I realize not everyone is capable of doing full-out theatrical presentations. Also, there will always be a spot in my world for musicians that just enjoy sitting around on the porch or hanging out in the garage and playing songs and occasionally bringing that to a small stage or house show. But I hope to see more creativity in future shows involving a visual approach. I don't always need the extraordinary skill of the Alvin Ailey dancers to enliven recorded music. Talented people creating a thoughtful presentation of recorded or original music will be something I will enjoy so much more than someone taking the stage, standing at his computer presenting his original music.

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