Alvin Ailey – These guys are pretty good. I want to cover that first, because I do have things I didn’t like, but that shouldn’t fool anyone into thinking they aren’t good. They are remarkably talented and athletic people doing pretty remarkable things. The show came in 4 parts, the first was sort of exactly what I imagined from Alvin Ailey. But the choreography was pretty beautiful. It painted some pictures that were striking, moments that stuck in my head. The outfits were incredible, the dresses were so flowy and perfect for their movements. The dancers were… less than expected. Still amazing, all that stuff I said. But I saw a surprising amount of wobbly turns, and slightly off balance poses. I really didn’t expect to see that, I thought it would be much smoother. Second dance was an INCREDIBLE modern thing. Set to this “music” that was really just a woman rhythmically saying “tick tack took” or some random sounds. The dancing was equally staccato. This isn’t a good description, but it was awesome. Third dance was this samurai-inspired thing set to really industrial heavy music. It was telling the story of a hunt or something, the dancing was very aggressive and masculine (it was 6 guys). It went on a bit long, the last 3rd didn’t need to exist. But it was pretty cool up until that, and the lighting was amazing. Last dance was the one these guys are famous for. Created by Alvin Ailey a long time ago, it’s inspired by the lives of slaves, it has a few parts, set mostly to gospel music. I was strangely disappointed with this. It seemed like it should have been amazing, it had all the right ingredients. But it didn’t connect with me, I ended up bored. I feel bad! Overall, the show was great, not the best. I think I’d rather see the columbia dancers again, if put to it.
Pancho Sanchez – So, this guy leads a little latin jazz group, and has for a few decades. Turns out, I don’t really dig latin jazz. I think the guys did a good job, they are all good musicians. Although a couple didn’t seem like they wanted to be there, really. But they were skilled. The sax/flute, trumpet, and trombone guys especially. They had a guest trumpeter, a guy named Terence Blanchard, who was pretty fantastic. Probably the best trumpeter I’ve ever seen. I saw Wynton Marsalis a few years ago too, I don’t remember him being as good! All that being true – I don’t really love latin jazz. It’s fine and all, just kind of boring. They did a soul song as an encore, that was pretty fun, the rest of the night was just a bit snoozy.
River North Dance Company - Well, these guys are a bit mixed. There was one really bad dance, but that's just because it was excessively jazzy (to Miles Davis music as well), and that's just not my thing. I'm sure they performed it well, I just don't like it. So removing that, this one is hard to judge. They had one beautiful dance that I loved. It was just a couple, dancing to "At Last", a very romantic, joyful dance. It was very much what you'd see on So You Think You Can Dance, a nice beautiful couples contemporary dance. Which is funny, because that's something I don't normally love on SYTYCD, but in person it was fantastic. The girl espeically represented such pure joy, she was genius. The night wrapped with a series of latin-inspired dance. The neat thing thing was they weren't all super high energy. I like super high energy, but it was cool to see latin music danced more slowly. The songs were fun, I liked it all. They danced to Andalucia, which I've just spent 20 minutes figuring out the name of and discovering that the reason I know it is because Pink Martini does it! So that was really nice. All the cuban stuff was good. The other stuff was the mix, they had a fairly standard contemporary piece, and then two aggressive songs. One was a solo half-improvised thing to really percussive staccato music. The other was a Robert Battle (dude running Alvin Ailey) thing. All three, including the contemporary, seemed to lack something for me. I don't know why,they seemed like fantastic ideas, great music, cool lighting. But it's like the idea was never rounded out. There was too much repitition, not enough creativity. Too much of the modern dancer equivalent of thathappy feet thing b-boys do. It's just filler, and I think kind of lazy. But I don't want to end on a bummer. I LOVE variety in dance. 2 hours of tango was overwhelming. 2 hours of Alvin Ailey, while very well executed, was a tiny bit too samey. This, while confined to jazz and contemporary, had a lot of variety, and I really liked that. This was the last dance show of the season. Funny after all that, i still love the Premium Blend by the UA dance students the most. It has the most variety and creativity, hands down. But still, good show, I'd see these guys again for sure.
The Cat Empire – God dammit, I forgot to write about this for a whole month! These guys are Australian, so they rarely come to the US. And when they do, it’s a pretty sparse tour. So we flew to LA just to see them, which perhaps expresses how excited we were to do so. The show was fantastic, unfortunately the experience was less so. Going to a show in LA is a miserable experience. The club, which chose to enforce the fire code when it came to stairwells, but to dramatically ignore it when it came to number of people in an area, is mostly to blame. The assholes who attend such shows are a close second, though. But forgetting that (as I would prefer to), the performance was great. The music is a lot of fun, and the guys are very good at what they do. They have a lot of ska and latin and other random influences. So there’s a lot of brass, which is great. Both primary singers are great (and very different from each other). We love the music, they could hard to any wrong by just playing the albums. But they do a LOT of extra. A lot of extended musical breaks and such, it’s really awesome.
Yo Yo Ma – I’ve never seen him before. Kind of like Itzak Perlman, he is very skilled, but I just don’t get all too excited about the music, so I never pay that much attention. He’s continuing his fusion trajectory, however, by playing with these two Brazilian guitar-playing guys – the Assad brothers. So the music was all Brazilian and Argentinian, which was kind of cool. The music still wasn’t exactly my favorite, but it was pretty cool. Seeing the mix of Ma and his long-time (apparently) pianist with this South American music was neat.