REVIEW: Ailey 2 – Milton Keynes Theatre, September 2023

 

Power, precision and presence. Ailey 2 showcases twelve dancers who wow with top-notch technical execution and incredibly infectious energy.

This exciting modern dance company is the younger sibling of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, so it is part of the renowned Ailey ‘family’ of training, performing and community outreach. The Ailey mission furthers the pioneering vision of the late dancer, choreographer and cultural leader Alvin Ailey; he united people of all races, ages and backgrounds through the universal language of dance, rooted in African American tradition. Ailey 2 bridges the gap between the studio and the stage for dancers at the beginning of their careers by giving them an opportunity to spend two to three years performing professionally, while continuing to hone their craft.

Current company members are aged between 19 and 27. Under the guidance of artistic director Francesca Harper – who took her first dance steps at the Ailey School, where her mother, Denise Jefferson, was director from 1984 to 2010 – they are excelling at demonstrating the awe-inspiring athleticism and artistry essential for individuals who want to make an impact on the next generation of dance.

The UK 2023 touring mixed bill features four works. At Milton Keynes Theatre, it opens with an excerpt from William Forsythe’s Enemy in the Figure (created for Ballet Frankfurt in 1989). Next comes an excerpt from Francesca Harper’s Freedom Series (created for Ailey 2 in 2021). Then Robert Battle’s The Hunt (created for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 2001). Finally, as is characteristic of all Ailey offerings, the programme concludes with Alvin Ailey’s Revelations (created for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1960).

It makes for a thoroughly enjoyable evening of dance. The programme delivers an impressive amalgam of intrigue, intensity and introspection. There’s darkness and light on this journey, which ends with the joy life can reveal if you have faith.

 

Ailey 2 in Alvin Ailey's Revelations. Three black dancers, two women in white dresses and one man in white trousers, are kneeling and leaning back to gaze upwards. One of the women is holding a white parasol aloft.

 

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NEWS: Expect expressive and energetic dance from Ailey 2 – Milton Keynes Theatre, September 2023

 

Modern dance company Ailey 2 will bring captivating performances full of grace, strength and soul to Milton Keynes this month.

Ailey 2 – Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s second company – is known for merging the creative vision of exceptional choreographers with the energy and talent of the next generation of dance artists. Celebrating its fiftieth anniversary and keen to share the famous Ailey spirit with new audiences, Ailey 2 is back in the UK for the first time since 2011.

Twelve incredible young dancers are taking to the stage at twelve regional venues, including Milton Keynes Theatre on Friday 29 and Saturday 30 September. They will dance an exhilarating programme of four works, which includes a timeless classic devised by Alvin Ailey himself.

 

Ailey 2 Dancers in Revelations. Nine dancers stand in a cluster, with their heads bowed and arms outstretched.

 

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REVIEW: Dada Masilo’s ‘The Sacrifice’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, March 2023

 

Dada Masilo’s The Sacrifice amalgamates dance, music and voice to rhythmically render an absorbing theatrical offering that is both fascinatingly unique and movingly universal.

This enjoyable and emotive new work is award-winning South African dancer and choreographer Masilo’s response to Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. The complex score, written in 1913 for a one-act ballet that culminates in the sacrifice of a young virgin, has long been a rite of passage for choreographers. Indeed, the seeds of Masilo’s ambition to create her own interpretation of the pounding pagan dance piece were planted when she learned a section of Pina Bausch’s 1975 choreography.

Already a fan of challenging rhythms and familiar with reimagining Western classics (she has previously adapted Swan Lake and Giselle), Masilo immersed herself in creating The Sacrifice in 2019. Of course, pandemic-related pauses protracted the process. Although frustrating, this ultimately gave her – and her company of excellent dancers and musicians – time to refine the mesmerising journey that her distinctive dance to death takes theatregoers on.

 

A group of Black South African dancers, facing downstage left, mid-performance in Dada Masilo's The Sacrifice. Masilo herself is centre stage, flanked by ten other dancers.

 

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NEWS: Experience Dada Masilo’s ‘The Sacrifice’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, March 2023

 

South African choreographer Dada Masilo – known for fearlessly deconstructing classical ballets – brings her latest creation, The Sacrifice, to Milton Keynes Theatre this month.

The Sacrifice is inspired by Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, a powerful but rhythmically complex score for a one-act ballet about the sacrifice of a young virgin. Honoured as ‘the chosen one’, she is compelled to dance herself to death during an ancient ritual that is performed to appease the gods of spring.

Masilo’s interpretation is danced to an original musical composition, which is played live, and her daring choreography fuses Botswana’s traditional Tswana dance with earthy contemporary dance. Tswana is rooted in storytelling and often used in celebrations and ceremonies. It incorporates uniquely expressive gestures and energetic movements. Accordingly, dance fans and inquisitive theatre enthusiasts alike should expect an engaging, exhilarating performance.

 

A scene from Dada Masilo's The Sacrifice. Masilo mid-movement centre stage with six dancers spaced out upstage behind her.

 

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REVIEW: Matthew Bourne’s ‘Nutcracker!’ – Milton Keynes Theatre, February 2022

 

Life is sweeter when dance takes centre stage and the sugar rush from Matthew Bourne’s Nutcracker! certainly leaves audience members on a delicious high.

Bourne devised his dance-theatre interpretation of the fantasy ballet in 1992. It was his first full-length work and became the first big hit for his company, New Adventures. Now, almost a decade since it was last performed, Nutcracker! is back for its thirtieth anniversary. This makes the current production a revival and a celebration – sweet!

In the ballet, Clara falls asleep after her family’s Christmas Eve party and is transported on a dreamy journey to faraway lands. She helps good triumph over evil and is entertained by sweets from around the world. The story is about the magic of childhood, the power of dreams and awakening an appetite for grown-up experiences.

In Nutcracker! Bourne adds fizz and flavour for a refreshing twist. He retains the sense of innocence and wonder from the classical version but shakes up the scenario to depict the nightmarish reality and hedonistic dreams of an orphan named Clara. When a nutcracker doll comes to life and helps her escape from the orphanage, she follows him to Sweetieland and is caught in a love triangle. Will Clara find more than a momentary taste of happiness with her sweetheart?

 

Nutcracker! Matthew Bourne's New Adventures dancers as Clara and two angelic Cupids. The trio are dancing in front of a sign that has arrows pointing in two directions. One arrow indicates the way to the Frozen Pond, the other indicates the way to Sweetieland.

 

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