The internationally renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater brings its contemporary works to Brooklyn with a performance from its troupe, Ailey II, this month in Prospect Park.
As part of the Celebrate Brooklyn festival, a summer-long program of free music, film, theater and dance now in its 30th season, the event is also a chance for the company to celebrate its own longevity as it marks its 50th anniversary.
For the occasion, the Manhattan-based company is reaching out to all the boroughs with free performances in each, with a Brooklyn performance on August 7.
Because the dancers are trained in all types of the art, including ballet, jazz, modern dance and hip-hop, the program is equally diverse. The Brooklyn show, at the Prospect Park Bandshell, will showcase Ailey II’s dozen dancers in a two-hour-long program, pulling from various dances in the company’s repertoire.
One featured dance is an excerpt from “The External Knot.” Choreographed by Ailey Associate Artistic Director Troy Powell, the dance is a modern piece with a touch of contemporary ballet, set to music by Robert Schumann and Philip Glass.
“It’s a piece about a guy who’s very lonely, who goes through despair, and at the end of the ballet, makes a breakthrough,” said Powell, a native New Yorker from Harlem who now resides in East Flatbush. “At the end, it leaves you guessing where he goes. I want the audience to use their imaginations and be creative and try and figure out what happens.”
In addition to “External Knot,” the performance will include highlights from the early years of Ailey in recognition of the 50th anniversary, as well as newer works, including the solo show “Isolation” and a male sextet called “The Hunt.”
“It’s basically the anger, anxiousness and the rage you build up,” said Josh Johnson, a second-year dancer from San Fernando, Calif., who will be one of the six men in “The Hunt.”
“For me, it’s like I’m hunting all the bad feelings around me. It’s a release to just conquer those things.”
Performing these emotional pieces outside in Prospect Park is a fitting yet unique opportunity for Brooklynites to experience dance.
“I feel like it’s different when you’re experiencing something inside and then outside,” said Johnson. “It deals with human nature, so it’s more natural. You’re concentrating on the different elements that surround you without being in an architectural setting. It’s more realistic to me.”
The internationally renowned company attracts students from across the United States, as well all over the world, with Ailey II a stepping stone company for young dancers who are emerging into the professional world. Those who are looking to just learn a few steps can get in on the fun before the show with two free dance classes at the Prospect Park Picnic House through the company's Ailey Extension program. Those who like what they learn are encouraged to pursue classes through Ailey Extension, which features a rich diversity of classes, from street dance to ballroom dancing, accessible to anyone.
“It caters to people who have never danced before,” said Powell. “It’s for fun, recreation or for people who just want to get some of that Ailey magic.”
Ailey II takes part in Celebrate Brooklyn on August 7 at the Prospect Park Bandshell (Ninth Street and Prospect Park West). The performance is free with a $3 suggested donation and starts at 8 p.m. Two free dance classes prior to the show take place at 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. at the Prospect Park Picnic House (Third Street and Prospect Park West). For more information, go to www.celebr
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