Dance St. Louis | Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

And who do we have to thank for this amazing presentation of phenomenal storytelling through dance?



Since 1966, Dance St. Louis had been responsible for bringing the world’s most extraordinary dance companies to St. Louis. The organization is dedicated to providing St. Louis and surrounding areas with “the world’s best dance and to develop an appreciation of dance as an art form,” and with their latest presentation of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, they continue to uphold this mission.
It is always a pleasure to be in the presence of greatness, and I am grateful to have experienced a full day of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. It was everything I expected and more. The matinee performance at 2 p.m. at the Fox Theatre included a variety of upbeat and sensual performances, including “Night Creature,” “In/Side,” “Anointed,” and “Revelations.”
The lights dimmed and Michael Uthoff, Dance St. Louis’s artistic director, welcomed us to the show. Shortly thereafter, blue lights illuminated the stage as 10 dancers appeared. The music—a very sexy, jazz trumpet-filled number—played as they moved and shook in the night like the “Night Creatures” they were. The following piece, “In/Side,” was a sensual and intimate performance. It featured one male dancer slinking across the stage in confession of his love, to the accompaniment of Nina Simone’s “Wild Is the Wind.”
Have you ever had that feeling of “I can’t take my eyes off you, because if I do, I’ll miss it all?” That’s the feeling you get watching the Ailey dancers strut, pirouette, and arabesque across the stage, each filled with energy, passion, and intensity. “Anointed” conveyed the love expressed between two people. Accompanied by Moby and Sean Clements’ “Grace,” “Blessed Love,” and “God Moving Over the Face of the Waters,” this piece exuded the dedication, commitment, and empowerment that love entails.
While entertaining, the evening performance wasn’t as good as the matinee. The first number, “Uptown,” consisted of reliving the past of slavery with the auction block, followed by the rebirth of black people. This piece was informational, educational, and visually uplifting, as the Harlem Renaissance unfolded before our eyes.
“The Evolution of the Secured Feminine” featuring a single female told the story of the various roles and emotions with which women play. She can be independent, but sensual and dependent; sexy, but businesslike, as well. “The Hunt” displayed masculinity to the utmost with the accompaniment of African drums and moves reminiscent of African ritual dance ceremonies.
The most famed piece, “Revelations,” was extraordinary in this performance. It was lively, taking us on a journey through the deep South and experiencing its holy blues. Through this performance you understand the struggle, and are inspired by the hope sprung from despair.
And who do we have to thank for this amazing presentation of phenomenal storytelling through dance? Dance St. Louis. I had the pleasure of speaking with artistic director Michael Uthoff and communications manager Barbara McRobie, and they gave me insight as to how this performance was made possible, as well as the history of Dance St. Louis.
“[Dance St. Louis] is the one of six companies in the United States that is a dance-only nonprofit without any connection to a university,” McRobie said. While not connected to an educational institution, Dance St. Louis makes it a necessity to provide educational programs to accompany its artistic mission. Twice a year, during the fall and spring, they have established daytime and after-school programs with area schools including  Herbert Hoover, Katherine Dunham, and University City High to expose youth to the world of dance.
Education is not limited to just school-aged youth, either. Before each performance, Uthoff hosts a free “Speaking of Dance” talk in which artistic directors, dancers, and choreographers discuss their work with audience members.
Choosing the season’s shows comes very naturally and strategically to Uthoff. “I think of it as having a six-room museum that I can change the paintings,” he said. “I bring what I like or it wouldn’t work as easy as it’s working.”
The season’s shows also depend on what dates are available with the theater, as well. The 2011-2012 season consists of Martha Graham Dance Company, The Joffrey Ballet, and West Side Story, to name a few. There is still time in the current season to experience the delight of a Dance St. Louis production: “Stomp” March 25-26; “Momix in the Botanical” April 8-9; and the Fourth Annual Emerson Spring to Dance Festival May 26-28.
As Dance St. Louis continues to bring the best and the brightest to the area, Uthoff couldn’t be more pleased, seeing the development and commitment to the art by the young kids, as well as the excitement of the spring dance festival. “Local organizations needed encouragement to see, move, and be better,” Uthoff said, “not in competition, but to watch and learn from others.” | Ashley White
For more information on Dance St. Louis, visit their website.

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