On Wednesday night, Robert Battle programmed Paul Taylor’s 1981 masterpiece Arden Court as the opening note on Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s three-night run at the Merriam Theater. Even with William Boyce’s Baroque music, this company breathed new life into Taylor’s work and into the closer, the 1960 classic Revelations.
The six men in the work danced like tightly coiled springs rapidly released, or in static moments, X’d their bodies stiffly to be turned hands over heels by another man, one man rolled across the floor as the curtain dropped. Linda Celeste Sims, Rachael McLean and Alicia Graf Mack were ethereal ballerinas wafting over the shoulders of the men. But, as with most Taylor works, the men had the edge.
In Battle’s 1999 work Takademe, Jamar Roberts charmed in red ruched pants by Missoni wriggling his way through multiple personality changes to fit Sheila Chandra’s vocalizations.
But the most sensational work was the Philadelphia premiere of Philadelphia’s own Rennie Harris’s Home to a terrific musical arrangement by another homie and former Harris’ Puremovement dancer, Raphael Xavier. Former Philadanco dancer Hope Boykin stood out from the women in this hot number that featured sizzling performances by the 14-member cast led by the matchless Matthew Rushing. Xavier used New York house DJ Dennis Ferrer’s “Deep, Deep Where the Sun Don’t Shine” as a musical anthem and the techno beat gave Harris a multiplicity of choreographic possibilities. With the cast huddled together as if for protection, Rushing breaks out and begins the fast and fancy footwork and flying fingers that mark this dance throughout. Ultimately all the dancers break into house dancing, each sometimes in his or her own cloud of energy. But underlying the sensational torso-bending, hip-rocking movements were the B-Boy moves Harris grew up on and is justly famous for having created them into a new genre for the stage.
Here the moves were softer, as if seen through fog, so swift the hops, sideways skips, leg crossovers, so elegant the interactions. At this soulful work’s end, Rushing gathers everyone back into the hushed huddle.
Of course, any Ailey audience would stay all night to see Revelations over and over. The Alvin Ailey-choreographed praise dance never loses its punch, its beauty, its sass. It’s a classic that will last forever.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
250 S Broad St.
Tonight, 8 p.m.
Tickets $39 to $75 call 215-893-1999 to purchase