Technically, Ailey II, the troupe performing at the Dana Center on Saturday, Oct. 13, is the second production company of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre.
But don’t let that fool you. These young dancers, ranging in age 18 to 25, are oozing with energy, excitement and wonder, as they take American Dance Theatre to something that you have to see live to experience, said Bob Shea at the Dana Center.
“The dancing is so dynamic live because of the energy that’s coming out of these people. It’s so intensely physical, acrobatic, it’s absolutely thrilling when you’re just 20 feet away,” Shea said.
And then there’s the artistry that goes into the lighting, the costuming, all of the visual elements. And the music is just thrilling, too, Shea said.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is known for having popularized modern dance in the 1950s and for its revolutionizing African-American participation in 20th-century dance. Led by Alvin Ailey, the troupe grew from a performance in 1958 in New York City that forever altered the perception of American dance. The style merges ballet, jazz and modern dance.
“The neat thing is that you don’t have to have a background in modern dance in order to appreciate it,” Shea said.
“We have a strong commitment to presenting America’s greatest professional dance companies,” Shea said. “Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is uniquely American — it’s like the way that contemporary bands are to ballet,” Shea said. He advises participants to view it as though they were listening to music rather than reading a book, following the storyline of the performance.
“Everyone will have their own subjective framework that interprets the dance, and everyone will probably share about 75 percent of it — the dances have strong personality and a point of view. That’s what makes any work of art strong,” Shea said.
Some may know the company for “Revelations,” perhaps one of the best-known and most often seen modern dance performances through the company. In Manchester, the audience will be treated to “Echoes,” “Rusty” and “Divining.”
Twenty-one-year-old Paige Fraser, in her second year at Ailey II, has been traveling all over the country performing in this national tour. Born and raised in the Bronx, N.Y., she says dancing with the Ailey II team has been a dream come true.
“It was an amazing, challenging experience,” she said of learning “Rusty.” The choreography was created so that it works with each of the dancers individually. “I love doing contemporary ballet — it allows me to show my long limbs and extremities. It’s a very personal piece,” she said.
It’s her first professional job, and technically she’s considered an “Ailey baby,” having gone through the company’s high school program before she joined the Ailey II production.
“In Ailey II, we’re all so passionate about what we do because we’re so hungry to get to that next level. That’s what inspires all of us. When I see the other dancers performing at such a high level on stage, it just makes me want to dance!” she said. The energy on stage is contagious, she said. “I think that’s what makes Ailey so different and special and energetic. When people see us perform, they get that vibe, and it seeps out into the audience.”
The company has performed for an estimated 23 million people at theaters in 48 states, 71 countries and on six continents, according to the website. Visit alvinailey.org