Alvin Ailey's American Dance Theater last night unveiled the first of two world premieres it is bringing to the Kennedy Center this week, a five-part dance monologue entitled "Inside (Between Love . . . and Love)." It turned out to be a tremendous hit with the audience -- perhaps a foregone conclusion given that it's a solo for the company's high priestess of dance, Judith Jamison -- and rather a choreographic dud.
"Inside" is the work of Ulysses Dove, a fine dancer who's been with the Ailey troupe since 1973, and has only recently been trying his hand at choreography. Specially created music, by Robert Ruggieri, and poetry, by Robert Maurice Riley, help embellish the theme of love's fluctuating moods.
At the start, stabs of light pierced the darkness to reveal Jamison in what looked like vermillion pajamas, seated on an "abstract" bench and going through agonies of movement (the first section is called "Fear") -- clutching her head, swaying her torso, pounding the floor, and so forth. A recorded voice intoned, "I don't need no love!" and then a bit later, "Love can make the moon roll over and laugh," and throughout, the intermittent poem continued in this mawkish vein.In subsequent passages, nondescript music and percussive chanting served as aural backdrop, as the movement continued through spins, contractions, stretches, twitches and flailings.
In the last section called "Ready for Love," birds twittered while Jamison rotated in place, limply flapping an arm, and the poem resumed with lines like "Love can fill your belly with stars." Then came the ovation: screams, whistles and hoots. Still, there's nothing much to the solo but chaotic spasms, and not all Jamison's emoting could make it look like anything else.
Also on the program, among other things, was the first Washington performance of Donald McKayle's 1962 portrait of a New Orleans bordello and the birth of jazz, "District Storyville." It's a tangy, picturesque, often witty theater piece, not very coherent as a whole but graced with individual high spots.