As a bridge between school and the professional theater, the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble (the "junior" Ailey company) showcased a new generation of dancers Saturday at Lisner Auditorium in two matinees for the Washington Performing Arts Society's series of family concerts. This new generation did things differently while following, quite literally, in its predecessors' steps -- which were from works choreographed by the late Alvin Ailey.
These young dancers reveled in the sensuality of movement. They released energy voluptuously, whether lingering over a full body stretch or spiraling into an exuberant turn. Their muscularity was complex and they sustained the impetus of a dance admirably. Where they're still weak is in the harsher aspects of dancing -- contractions that are like cries from the subconscious, sharp endings that seem as final as a command of the gods, and the courage to be simple.
The lushness of these youngsters seemed to fit Ailey's "Isba," a love psalm on Ethiopian themes to George Winston music. This work appears overstudded with extensions that yearn and swoon, but perhaps more distinctive phrasing by the dancers would make the choreography seem less repetitious. For "Revelations," the company had the necessary drive, if not always the reserve and rigor for the work's pregnant pauses and potent still points.
A class was in progress when the audience entered the theater. Toward the end of the class, ensemble director Sylvia Waters spoke about the organization and Ailey's life. In the repertory that followed, Troy O'Neil Powell stood out. Eager as the principal lover in "Isba," his expression seemed to comment on his own performance. In the "Be Ready" solo of "Revelations," he was supple without weakening the necessary concentration. Powell had also led the opening class. His partner in "Isba," sophisticated Diane Caroll Tucker, dispatches even the trickiest step as a matter of course.