It's impossible to resist Judith Jamison; she takes the stage like an empress. Other dancers are as tall but her shoulders remain proud even when she stoops. Her long neck, bowing to love's inevitable end, curves nobly to carry a head that defies being uncrowned. And, when Jamison dances with her eyes and hands, it is a choreography of commands.
Returning to the Alvin Ailey company, Jamison danced in some of the final programs of the troupe's two-week-long Kennedy Center season that ended Sunday. Besides her signature roles, she danced "Facets," by John Butler. It begins, to Bessie Smith's singing of "empty Bed Blues," with Jamison looking as if she had lost a battle. Soon, though, she faces up to Ethel Waters' version of "Trouble, Trouble" and rummaging in an old trunk for the right dresses to suit her moods she dance-mimes to lovelorn songs by Dinah Washington and Lena Horne, stalking off in high gear to Labelle's "Amazing Flight of a Lone Star."
Jamison lived up to expectations in this solo, as in her old Ailey roles. Yet one wonders whether challenges given her elsewhere explain her absences from the company.
"The Time Before the Time After," in its one performance on Sunday's matinee, was startlingly compact for Lar Lubovitch, a choreographer known to be diffuse. Donna Wood and Ulysses Dove danced it as a couple for whom loving and hurting are forever inseparable. Their lunges and falls had drama and muscle but distracted from Igor Stravinsky's complex "Concertina for String Quartet."