Dance Reviews : Alvin Ailey Company Introduces ‘Tell It Like It Is’

From spiritual illumination to numbing drug addition, Kelvin Rotardier’s new “Tell It Like It Is” loosely runs a story of achieving enlightenment backward.

Seen for first time in Los Angeles on the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater program Saturday at the Wiltern Theatre, the work shows a dancer sitting in a lotus meditation pose under a stream of golden light early on and shooting up drugs and going into nods at the end.

In the eight-minute solo, set to blues ballads by Terry Callier, Gary DeLoatch makes excursions from--and back to--a small, centrally placed wooden platform, brightly lit in a sea of darkness.

The platform serves as a room or cell (outlines of a window are faintly projected onto the area at the start and close of the work), a hiding place to slide under or an addict’s shooting gallery.


By opening and closing with the same image--DeLoatch spread out backward on the platform--the choreographer may imply a cyclical fate, and so all may not be as hopeless as it first appears. Neither, however, does there seem to be an escape. The focus is drawn tight on the individual; left unidentified are oppressors or source of oppression.

DeLoatch brought extraordinary authority, power, presence and weight of character to the work.

Completing the program were “Survivors,” choreography by Ailey and Mary Barnett, with Sharrell Mesh-Alexander and Dudley Williams strongly dancing the central activist couple; Ailey’s “Streams,” a showpiece of difficult balances and high leg extensions, dealt with handily by the company; and Ailey’s familiar company suite “Revelations,” danced, with a few exceptions, none too neatly.