With two brilliantly choreographed works from their repertoire, the young dancers from Ailey II in New York brought the audience to its feet at Greenwich Academy with their energy, focus and artistry.
Three of the young dancers, Gabriel Hyman, Riccardo Battaglia and Samantha Barriento, gave a 90-minute master class to dance students at Greenwich Academy before the evening performance, watched by Marcia Brooks, director of the Upper School Dance companies. The student participants were excited and elated, dancing to The Story of My Life.
This year’s Family ReEntry benefit moved from outdoor tent to indoors as the important agency celebrated its program and its work, particularly its outreach with youth, after 15 years of music in the garden at Bydale, Joan Warburg’s estate in Greenwich.
Mrs. Warburg was honorary chair of this event, which was in honor of the late Elizabeth “Beth” Bush, a great supporter of the agency’s work and a volunteer at The Carver Center, Greenwich. She also loved to dance.
Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres preceded the night’s performance, which was introduced by co-chair Susan Ness, who talked about both groups’ shaping of young lives. Ronda Muir, chairman of the board, spoke movingly about a son incarcerated, and Executive Director Steve Lanza detailed the work and successes of the agency’s programs, and their financial efficacy to taxpayers. Family ReEntry also previewed its new video, which summarized its programs in action. The opening work, Wings, by Jennifer Archibald, was called “a profound, experiential evocation of the human condition, done on a bare stage with shadows thrown by gobos behind the dancers in white costumes, with a shade of lavender. All the angst, anguish, conflicts, relationships was shown through movement and energy. The music was spare and thoughtful, throbbing, backing up a couple who tangles and entangles, men who interreact, groups, with analogies hovering everywhere. The dance was about being human, carrying a message that we are all one.”
The second part of the program was a cultural experience, Revelations, a signature Ailey work, choreographed in 1960, set to the music of spirituals, choruses telling the story. Some of the songs were Fix Me, Jesus, Wade in the Water and I Wanna Be Ready.
Male dancers were highlighted in individual soaring turns, and a Caribbean-style song featured women in yellow strutting with parasols. The closing number, Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham, had the audience clapping along, and the dancers answered the applause with an encore, and then took four curtain calls to a standing ovation.
A VIP reception honored the dancers post-performance.