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As American As Alvin Ailey 

Wednesday, Feb 20 2008
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While the qualifier "American" in Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater might seem superfluous, the nature of the wildly popular company's work and its international touring schedule may help explain the extra wordage. The Ailey repertoire is American the way jazz and rock and roll are American, and for the same reason -- namely the synergistic blend of black and European sensibilities that has brought fans to their feet in concert halls all over the world for the last half century. Case in point is this week's Berkeley run, which pairs Camille A. Brown's The Groove to Nobody's Business -- set on a New York subway platform to the music of Ray Charles and Brandon McCune -- with Maurice Béjart's version of Michel Fokine's 1910 Firebird.

The company has had ample time to refine its repertoire to a virtuostic sheen over its fifty-year history (There must have been at least six overchoreographed curtain calls at the end of last year's signature "Revelations"), though for better or worse depends on how slick you like your modern dance. Regardless, the commercial packaging doesn't seem to have diminished the group's rootsy appeal here in the U.S. or in the 68 other countries it's toured. Perhaps the very mix of home-spun soul and professional polish is what makes the company most American after all.
March 5-9, 8 p.m., 2008

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Bonner Odell

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