DECONSTRUCTRON Critical Review: Cry (Alvin Ailey)
DANCE; The Long Shadow Of Ailey's Great 'Cry'
By VALERIE GLADSTONE
Published: November 26, 2000
THE audience wouldn't stop cheering when Judith Jamison danced Alvin Ailey's masterpiece ''Cry'' at its premiere on May 4, 1971, at City Center. ''They went crazy,'' Ms. Jamison says. Ms. Jamison, the artistic director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater since Ailey's death in 1989, recalled that night in an interview one afternoon last month. She remembers the dancer Dudley Williams's rushing to congratulate her afterward, having been worried she wouldn't make it through. A 16-minute solo would be daunting under any circumstances, but ''Cry,'' choreographed by Ailey ''for all black women everywhere -- especially our mothers,'' intensifies the challenge with its resonant emotional content. The three-part work, set to popular and gospel music by Alice Coltrane, Laura Nyro and Chuck Griffin, depicts a woman's journey through the agonies of slavery to an ecstatic state of grace. Knowing Ms. Jamison's strengths, Ailey had made it for her and as a birthday present for his mother. He phoned Ms. Jamison the morning after the first performance. '' 'You're in headlines in The Times,' Alvin told me,'' she says. 'Clive Barnes calls you a triumph.' '' Awakened from a deep sleep, she responded, ''O.K., thanks, I'm a little tired.'' She didn't know it then, but overnight she had become a star. In time, ''Cry'' became her signature piece.
Since the premiere of ''Cry,'' its mystique has grown and no dancer assumes the role without fear and pride -- fear that she won't be up to its physical and dramatic requirements and pride that she has been selected to perform a work almost sacred to the company and its fans. The chosen -- there have been about 20 -- even win a special designation: '' 'Cry' girls.'' During the company's annual five-week season beginning on Wednesday at City Center, Dwana Adiaha Smallwood and...
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