Even before a crowd much diminished by snow the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater managed to generate their customary heat at the Kennedy Center last night.
New on the program for this run was Donald McKayle's "Rainbow 'Round My Shoulder," a piece first performed in 1959 to chain gang songs from the Lomax collection. In terms of pure invention, "Rainbow" doesn't hold up that well sandwiched, as it was here, between "Cry" and "Revelations," but the contrast between the sense of frustration and restraint in the chain gang passages and the lyrical release of the dream sequences makes it, nonetheless, an emotionally compelling work.
It was the charm of the partnership of Donna Wood and Dudley Williams in the dream sequences that brought the piece and the evening to full-blown life. Wood shone in "Rainbow" and in George Faison's "Gazelle," gracing the title role like an African sylphid in animal guise.
Estelle Spurlock was competent in "Cry." Her best moments though came in the "Fix Me Jesus" passage of "Revelations" where her strong, at times almost battle-axy persona managed to fix and transfigure the movement with a peculiar power. Although the Ailey company must have performed "Revelations" countless times by now, you'd never have guessed it from last night's rousing rendition. That white umbrella floated over the proceedings like the Holy Ghost itself.