On their 50th anniversary, as unique as they were on Jan. 31, 1960
PREVIEW If success breeds success, why has Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater not had any imitators? The company celebrated its 50th anniversary in December, and Revelations will be half a century old next year. Yet Ailey and Revelations continue to be as unique as they were on Jan. 31, 1960, when the company thought the work had failed because the audience greeted it with a stunned silence. Then, of course, the roof came down, and Revelations continues to move audiences around the globe. So would the Ailey company be such a hit wherever they go without Revelations? It's on every single program of this year's Berkeley run, and my suspicion is that it wouldn't.
Still, the company has more going for itself than one masterpiece. For one thing, there are the dancers. They all are virtuosic, generous, and committed to each other. A sense of inclusivity was also key to Ailey and continues to be vital for artistic director Judith Jamison. Ailey never wanted this to be an Ailey-only, American-only ensemble. Today the company still takes chances with younger choreographers such as Hope Boykin, whose 2008 work Go in Grace will be on Program A. Dutch choreographer Hans van Manen's 1997 Solo, also seen at San Francisco Ballet, will be on Program D, as will Festa Barocca, a 2008 commission from the Italian Mauro Bigonzetti. One definite highlight should be the West Coast premiere of Ailey's 1969 piece Masekela Language on Program C. It makes you wonder, what took them so long?
ALVIN AILEY AMERICAN DANCE THEATER Wed/4Fri/6, 8 p.m.; Sat/7, 2 and 8 p.m.; Sun/8, 3 p.m.; $36$62. Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley, Berk. (510) 642-9988, www.calperfs.berkeley.edu