Magazine article Dance Magazine

Hymn

Magazine article Dance Magazine

Hymn

Article excerpt

Hymn, the new work choreographed by Judith Jamison with text by Anna Deavere Smith, had its premiere at the splashy thirty-fifth anniversary gala that opened the annual New York City season of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Given on a program that featured stellar guests--Denzel Washington, Maya Angelou, and Jessye Norman, to name but three--the full-company work seemed like an ambitious piece d'occasion. Performed on various mixed bills during the run, Hymn looked like a television commercial, albeit a lengthy one, for the exciting and engaging company of dancers Jamison directs.

The motivations for this project possessed a soundness the final product does not. For her earlier one-woman show, Fires in the Mirror, Smith made penetrating theater out of her keen-edged interviews of disparate individuals affected by the riots in New York City's Crown Heights neighborhood. The material obtained here--reflections on Ailey's life and work--proves less intriguing. Only the rendering of company member Karine Plantadit's thoughts of her African grandmother soars above the realm of anecdote. Jamison's dancemaking is mostly limited to vestigial quotes from Ailey's canon and to large, unison ensembles that have the impact of high-energy workout sessions with Bejart-like punctuation.

With neither the bombastic, machine-made Robert Ruggieri score nor the flashy, billowy cyclorama (credited to no fewer than three designers) adding much distinction, Hymn could seem merely grandiose. …

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