DANCE REVIEWS : Horton’s ‘Sarong’ Revived by Ailey Company at Wiltern

Both the oldest and the most recent work from the season’s repertory turned up on the Saturday evening program by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at the Wiltern: an Ailey mentor and a protege linked across nearly 40 years of dance.

Back in 1950--the year Ailey made his debut as a dancer--Los Angeles’ own Lester Horton combined the hip action of Afro-Caribbean dance with the filigree of limbs and neck characteristic of Southeast Asia. Set to flagrantly exotic pop by Les Baxter, the result has now been restaged for five Ailey women as “Sarong Paramaribo.”

Endearingly preposterous, elegantly crafted and fascinating as a precursor to such familiar experiments in Afro-Asian synthesis as Geoffrey Holder’s “Dougla” (1974) for Dance Theatre of Harlem, “Sarong Paramaribo” also represents a major test of unison execution. Are the forceful Dana Hash and Debora Chase capable of delicate neck isolations and finger-shimmers? (They are.) Do the equally charismatic Elizabeth Roxas and Sarita Allen move like sister bayaderes? (They do.) Can April Berry hope to keep up? (She can.)

A repeat of Ulysses Dove’s 1989 “Episodes” (previously reviewed) not only shows the Ailey company at its fiercest and most contemporary, it also may explain why the dancers give Ailey’s 1970 “Streams” such unexpected power. It’s a matter of extreme tension and explosive attacks: necessary for “Episodes” and “Bad Blood” (another Dove sex-war epic), optional but certainly effective in Ailey’s formal exploration of a percussion score by Mirsolav Kabelac.


“Streams” always had artful group deployments (a line becoming a phalanx and, later, a mass), as well as inventive combinations of gestural and linear idea--plus intriguing forays into same-sex partnering. Now it has Dereque Whiturs and Desmond Richardson defining their manhood and togetherness in capital letters. It has Nasha Thomas and Adrienne Armstrong taking us inside the movement in their soulful, sculptural solos. And, above all, there’s a partnership rich in subtext and richer in interplay between Andre Tyson and Neisha Folkes.

Tyson is also prominent in Talley Beatty’s “The Stack-Up,” a familiar 1982 genre piece with an anti-drug message, set to rock records. Beatty is renowned for kaleidoscopic eclecticism and he piles on so many effects here that you can understand why Dove went to the other extreme: a rigorously stripped-down style that completely avoids superimposition. Both choreographers depict street life, but Beatty gives you a mosaic and Dove a graph.