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Twenty-first century Ailey 

A new artistic director nudges Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater toward the future

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's new artistic director, Robert Battle, isn't exactly wet behind the ears.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's new artistic director, Robert Battle, isn't exactly wet behind the ears.

Paul Kolnik

Robert Battle steps out—a little—in his first year as artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater by presenting Home by hip-hop choreographer Rennie Harris. Set to house music, the piece challenges AAADT's ballet-trained dancers to get down, literally, by dropping their centers of gravity. But this isn't quite a bolt out of the blue: in 2004, Harris choreographed one of the three sections of the company's Love Stories. And given Home's Ailey quotes, social-dance roots, and generally uplifting tone (the subject is surviving HIV infection), it looks like Harris is carrying the ethos of the revered founder into the 21st century.

Home is the only Chicago premiere on the two programs AAADT is performing. The other pieces have been done here before, but promise a great time. And three are company premieres: Paul Taylor's courtly yet athletic Arden Court from 1981; Ohad Naharin's crowd-pleasing—and crowd-involving—Minus 16 (which Hubbard Street Dance Chicago started performing in 2000); and Battle's own 1999 solo Takademe, previously seen at the Chicago Dancing Festival. Ailey's Revelations—which, as usual, closes every program—and Memoria complete the lineup.

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