Ailey-ites embrace their inner meshuggenah in “Minus 16” 1


I’ve seen Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin’s “Minus 16,” in its various bits and pieces, components and rehashes, on Batsheva Dance Company (his home base), Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet, and most recently on a gang of Cal Arts dance students.

But what a wild trip, tonight in Costa Mesa, watching Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater try Ohad’s deep squiggles on for size, as well as his deadpan humor. My god it was a cultural moment to see the great black dancers decked out in black suit and grey skivvies — Ohad’s weird cross-fertilization of orthodox Jew with gangsta.

“Minus 16”  toys, in a nice way, with its audience, stopping and starting, fiddling with theatrical conventions of house and stage lights, curtain drops, tidy starts and finishes. All to a truly kooky sound score that lurches between lounge lizard and Dick Dale’s surfer-rock version of Hava Nagila.

When the Ailey crew broke through the fourth wall, leaving the stage to filter into the audience on a search for “volunteers” (a truly terrifying moment), I turned to my friend Larry and noted smugly, “We’re safe, tucked inside the middle of the row.”

Next thing I knew, a fedora’ed Ailey dancer was cruising the aisle dead in front of me, eyeballing candidates, then dragging a middle-aged woman much like myself out of her comfort zone and onto the stage.

How the audience howled as civilians mixed in a hilarious ballroom improv [to Dean Martin “Sway With Me“], cheek-to-cheek with the bodacious bods of the Ailey dancers. Screams of pleasure filled the air where, during a prior dance, respectful silence had reigned.

One of the funnest evenings of dance I’ve had in a long time — Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, a national treasure, in Orange County. So, go.

Ailey company Minus 16 photo: Paul Kolnik

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater | Segerstrom Center for the Arts | thru Sunday

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One comment on “Ailey-ites embrace their inner meshuggenah in “Minus 16”

  1. Gus Andrews Mar 8,2012 10:15 am

    Man, I just wish there was video of this! It sounds great!

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