Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater review The Festival Theatre Edinburgh Wednesday 18th October


Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at The Festival Theatre sees not only one of the world’s great dance companies but also one of the world’s great cultural development companies coming to Edinburgh, and performances like the one tonight are not only great tributes to a diverse cultural heritage, but also to the work and the memory of their founder Alvin Ailey...a man who left this world far too early in life, but left behind something amazing. 

This show contains four works - “Exodus”, “Four Corners”, “After the Rain Pas de Deux” and “Revelations”.

“Exodus”, our first performance is a stunning piece of work by acclaimed hip-hop choreographer Rennie (Lorenzo) Harris.  With its setting to both poetry, gospel and house music, we explore change and in particular the change from earthly to spiritual existence...a change in obvious contrast both in dance, music and costumes.  “Exodus” is one of the most recent works from Alvin Ailey, but it is a work that simply needs to be performed, and in its own way just as classic a piece as their timeless “Revelations”.

“Four Corners” by Ronald K Brown follows the spiritual nature of “Exodus” as 11 dancers depict spiritual seekers. Amidst them, holding the four winds at the four corners of the earth  are four angels.   Choreographed to a song “Lamentations” by his friend and recording artist Carl Hancock Rux, this is a perfect blend of music, dance and motion.  Halfway through this piece, the music and rhythms change to a lullaby by North African vocalist Yacoub.  This change indicates a shift in the very winds themselves.

“After the Rain Pas de Deux,” by Christopher Wheeldon takes us onto a very classical performance by Linda Celeste Sims and Glenn Allen Sims.  Set to “Spiegel Im Spiegel” by Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, this is simply a wonderful and graceful dance performance piece to watch that has its place alongside any of the great pas de deux of classical ballet and illustrates just how successfully Alvin Ailey Dance incorporates dance from many cultural roots.

“Revelations”, our last, but probably most identifiable performance from this company may be nearly 60 years old now (first performed in 1960), but it is certainly not showing its age at all. “Revelations” is performed in three sections "Pilgrim of Sorrow", "Take Me to the Water" and "Move, Members, Move" and is a perfect fusion of music and movement –and some great costumes here too.   “Revelations” is probably my favourite from this show, but a big part of that is due to the fact that I love the sounds of Gospel/Spiritual music, so this performance had my attention from the first few bars of music.

All through the performances there is almost the eyes of a cinema director at work as much as a dance choreographer’s, and that produces something very special visually.  Large veins of spirituality  and  hope also run through the dance and music performed on stage.

Alvin Ailey as a dance company was created to preserve modern dance and afro/American dance, and it continues to succeed in that remit today.  Along the way though, it has never closed its vision to only this horizon and continues to explore dance from all its various origins.

Alvin Ailey is not just a dance company though, it is a cultural project with community outreach and learning projects that have been established since its foundation (and before the concepts even became popular).  Dance and the arts have the power to change the lives and futures of the young people that their many projects engage with, and this continuing work is just as important to Alvin Ailey American Dance as anything that is performed on stage.  The company truly are great cultural ambassadors for their country.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater are constantly touring, and that schedule only allows them a short stop-over in Edinburgh this time, so try if you can to make it along to one of their performances while they are here.

For more information on Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, their performance and community works, visit

Review by Tom King

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