Nine dancers line up on the stage. Dressed in flares and what looks like tank tops (but surely can’t be) in brown and rust tones, they look at us quizzically. Then they dance. This is ballet meets jazz – with a wee nod to bebop in the kicks, flicks, and cheeky casual grace with which the pairs fling each other around the stage, courtesy of choreographer Twyla Tharp. The music’s classic American jazz trumpeter, Roy Eldridge, is all sultry suggestion and lyrical odes to the moon. The dancers are like treacle, bonelessly fluid amidst the blue-hued bare stage. This is Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at the Edinburgh International Festival and it’s superior stuff.
Next up is the UK premiere of acclaimed choreographer Kyle Abraham’s newest work, Are You in Your Feelings?, a perky exploration of the the relationship between the sexes and relationships themselves. This piece features 12 dancers, resplendent in jewel colours that are surely shot silk given the beautiful way they inhabit the light, lined with a fluorescent pop. The lighting is sumptuous, drowning the stage in pink, then purple, then blue. The soundtrack’s a smooshing together of pop, hip-hop, and R&B tunes. The piece is fun and fluid, lyrical and sex, toying with the idea that the sexes can’t live with or without each other. Gorgeous.
Last up, we are offered Alvin Ailey‘s iconic work, Revelations. First performed in 1960, the work is a resounding tribute to African-American cultural heritage. Shaped by Ailey’s childhood memories of growing up in rural Texas amidst the Baptist Church, the soundtrack is a glorious fusion of African-American spirituals, gospel songs, and holy blues. The choreography takes us from the entreating supplication of the holiest of places to the banks of the river on a beating hot day, to a euphoric celebration of a world that mustn’t be lost in Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham. Sinner Man features a powerful trio of dancers, stretching and leaping until you fear they might topple. This is a thrilling set of performances from a top class dance company.