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Ailey 2 - Mixed Programme

Ailey 2 - Mixed Programme

Ailey 2 is universally renowned for merging the spirit and energy of the finest early-career dance talent in the United States with the passion and creative vision of today’s most outstanding and emerging choreographers. Dance Magazine calls Ailey 2 “second to none,” and The New York Times declares, “There’s nothing like an evening spent with Ailey 2, the younger version of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.”

For their return to the UK, Ailey 2 brings an exciting repertory featuring Francesca Harper’s futuristic Freedom Series (excerpt), Robert Battle’s thrilling The Hunt, the incredible energy of William Forsythe’s Enemy in the Figure (excerpt), and Alvin Ailey’s beloved masterpiece Revelations.

Founded by Alvin Ailey, the company embodies his pioneering mission to establish an extended cultural community that provides dance performances, training, and community programs for all people. Since its 1974 inception, Ailey 2 has flourished into one of the most popular modern dance companies, combining a rigorous touring schedule with extensive community outreach programs. Today, with new Artistic Director Francesca Harper at the helm, she brings fresh perspectives to Mr. Ailey’s legacy, while nurturing new creative voices and propelling the company forward.

Additional information
Enemy in the Figure (William Forsyth) 18 min
Intermission 15 min
Freedom Series (excerpt) (Francesca Harper) (excerpt) 15 min
Pause 2 min
The Hunt (Robert Battle) 14 min
Intermission 15 min
Revelations (Alvin Ailey) 36 min

Watch our interview with artist director Francesca Harper discussing the production and a lot more...

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Ailey 2 - Mixed Programme ON TOUR

Our review on Ailey 2 - Mixed Programme

Ailey 2 - Mixed Programme at The Lowry, Salford - Saturday 14th October 2023 by Karen Ryder

Our Rating


Alvin Ailey is a name renowned with dance enthusiasts and for good reason.  He took the dance world by storm and arguably changed it forever.  With a strong and unapologetic vision to build an extended cultural community, he wanted to make dance performances, training, and education accessible for everyone, regardless of social status, race, gender or any other obstacles that too often block equal access to the arts.  With a strong emphasis on community programs and outreach, his vision would prove to engage a wealth of talent and provide unity.  Utilising African-American heritage to positively portray beauty, humanity, peace and inspiration, Ailey expanded the company to include Ailey 2 in 1974– a universally respected dance company that provides training and opportunity to new and emerging dancers and choreographers.  Blending their fresh passion, spirit and energy, Ailey 2 have become a driving force in the dance world, ensuring that its young members have a voice, have their values respected, and can practise their passion in a safe and creative company.

Tonights show by Ailey 2 is a celebration 50 years in the making.  It includes exquisite excepts from four different dance shows, specifically chosen by Artistic Director Francesca Harper.  Having trained at Ailey herself, Francesca understands first hand the difference that this nurturing and creative company can make, and endeavours to continue its legacy.

The first excerpt is from Enemy In The Figure (William Forsythe).  It was originally choreographed in 1989 for the Frankfurt Ballet, where Francesca Harper was a dancer herself.  She brought the piece to Ailey 2 in her first year, and so it seems fitting to be revisiting it in tonights 50 years celebration.  It is driven by a rhythmically pulsating percussive score and brings an intense and exciting vibe.  Influenced by the ideas of light, darkness and shadows, we can see this being played out by the dancers as they erupt from the darkness with disjointed and angled shapes, yet equally offer up a liquid fluidity in other moments.  Corkscrew style movements juxtapose against sharp isolations and bold freezes, showing the strength of the dancers and their versatility.  The amount of detail and movements to each beat is hypnotic and its speed is akin to the dance version of rap.  The electronic score may come as an unexpected surprise, but it soon becomes clear that mixed with the dance style, the costumes and the storytelling, it is perfectly placed.  It makes you question what shadows are, what they mean, and how we might find them hiding in the corners of our lives and even within our own being.  The ideas of connection, isolation and loneliness have never been more endured or relevant in our modern history than they are now, and so this piece drew the audience in with a shared understanding.  This in itself showed the piece had surpassed its aim as it connected us all in a shared experience of unspoken and internalised feelings.

Freedom Series (Francesca Harper) was the second excerpt on offer tonight and was created by Francesca in 2021 as part of her inauguration.  It travels through a world of memories, which form a series of vignettes.  We are plunged into an intriguing and eclectic world where our memories try to influence our future.  In creating this piece, Francesca was inspired by afro futurism, allowing her to dream big and imagine a way in which we could project who we might be into the future in order to influence it.  Themes of identity and community, the very backbone of Ailey 2, are cleverly intertwined and make this piece the perfect inclusion in tonights mixed programme.  The first vignette offers unique partner work in which fascinating shapes are created, and imaginative lifts are executed.  The second is a jazz blues style solo and is stunningly beautiful and heartfelt.  The third is an ensemble piece with a featured solo dancer with a contemporary feel that exudes emotion.  The dancers intertwine spheres of light into their storytelling, which drifts into the last vignette.  A quartet start in atmospheric silence, and the classical style music lends itself to the stunning ballet, with attitudes, pirouettes, arabesque’s and so much more.   

The Hunt (Robert Battles – Artistic Director Alvin Ailey Company) is an athletic piece, originally choreographed for an all male cast.  Tonight saw three females and one male (due to a fourth female injury) and it felt like an important moment in history.  It is a predatory and primitive piece depicting an instinctual hunt.  The power and strength on display was inspiring and empowering.  The percussive score was used to maximum effect, reverberating an explosive energy throughout.  The intricacy of dancers weaving in and out of each other, particularly at the start was hypnotic.  Powerful and strong beats of the body matched the percussive sounds, and when the hunted were slayed, there was an audible gasp from the audience at the sheer strength and command on display.  This was equally true when the dance depicted the slayed being devoured through precision and a stage stained in red lighting.  The whole piece was energetic and relentless, and somehow made me feel stronger watching it.  I could feel my muscles twitching to the pounding percussive beat, and as it neared its finale, the tension built into a dizzying peak. 

Revelations (Alvin Ailey) is the Ailey dance company’s signature masterpiece, and its inclusion in tonights programme would be reason enough for many of the audience to be here, such is its strength.  Created in 1960 by Alvin Ailey himself, he shares his blood memories and sends an incredibly strong message about identity and intent.  Revelations consistently marvels audiences for it has a delicate and stunning blend of grace, spiritual revelation, and beauty.  It is a love letter to the cultural heritage of the Afro-American community, and whilst it doesn’t shy away from the distressing periods of its history, it also celebrates its triumphs with jubilant pride.  The over riding feeling is one of hope.  Hope for the future for all of us.  The Gospel music is stunning and presents opportunity for sorrow, joy, inspiration, love and connection.  It guides the dancers throughout, it will hold your heart in its hand and allow it to beat with authenticity as you feel every feel that Ailey poured into this immersive showstopper.  Intense, graceful, balletic, lyrical, it is inventive and was clearly ahead of its time for it feels like it could have been choreographed today.  This is of course presented through the dancers, from slow and sustained partner work that bewilders with the level of control and trust, to African influenced ensemble work where rhythm pulsates and ripples through their entire bodies.  Solo work wows with core strength and seems to defy the human body with every move.  It really is a masterpiece and it is no surprise that this is the longest of tonights excerpts.

I was told in advance that a night watching Ailey 2 would leave me on the edge of my seat, riveted, and impassioned, and whilst I knew it would be an evening to remember, I admit I took these words too lightly.  It is an experience to behold and whilst I have written a review, I freely admit that Ailey 2 transcends words.  It is about connection, being in the audience, engaging with the music, the movement, the costumes, the lights, the emotions that well up inside of you and leave you with a solidified understanding of the true essence and vision that is Ailey 2


Watch our video "In Conversation with Francesca Harper (Artistic Director)" discussing the show


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