By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.
This March, Ailey II will embark on its first independent season at New York City’s The Joyce Theater. The 12-member ensemble, led by Artistic Director Troy Powell, will perform two programs that are rich and diverse, with some works by new and up-and-coming choreographers.
As a company that tours almost nine months out of the year, Ailey II is looking forward to performing for their home audiences in NYC. Here, Dance Informa gives you an inside look at the company’s season and speaks with Powell and one of the Ailey II dancers, Riccardo Battaglia.
From March 17-22, Ailey II will present two programs that Powell says will give audiences different experiences with each work and will allow the dancers an opportunity to “wear different hats in each piece”.
Program A will include Hissy Fits, choreographed by Dwight Rhoden, co-artistic director of Complexions Contemporary Ballet; breakthrough, by the young French dancemaker Manuel Vignoulle; and Amy Hall Garner’s Virtues. Program B will feature Powell’s The External Knot; Coure Sott’olio, by emerging choreographer Kate Skarpetowska; and Wing, a work by another young and up-and-coming choreographer, Jennifer Archibald.
Both Hissy Fits and breakthrough are new for the company and were chosen by Powell because he says each will challenge the dancers either physically or mentally.
“Hissy Fits challenges the dancers way beyond their innate virtuosic range of movement,” he adds. “The ballet depicts the tumultuous nature of human relationships, the ups and downs, the ins and outs, the give and take, of how two people communicate and function with or without each other. Breakthrough, on the other hand, is a dark piece about a group of people living in an underground world. These people are boxed in and are seeking a way out to communicate and connect to a world just beyond their reach.”
Ailey II dancer Riccardo Battaglia, who is in his second season with the company, says what he loves most about dancing with Ailey II is the opportunity to work with different choreographers and challenge himself in diverse styles of dance.
“I believe, in this day and age, being a versatile dancer is very important, and dancing in this company gives you the chance to hone this skill, as it helps your own artistry to grow,” he explains.
Battaglia is especially looking forward to premiering Hissy Fits this season. “It’s, in my opinion, one of Mr. Rhoden’s most beautiful works,” he says. “My dance background is more modern and jazz, so working on a contemporary ballet piece was very challenging. In this ballet, there are several duets, and sharing emotions with a partner throughout dance is something I’ve always loved.”
All in all, Powell believes audiences will enjoy their experience watching Ailey II in a ranging repertoire at The Joyce.
“There’s always something new, always something unique with Ailey II,” Powell says. “The company has to stay young, it has to stay fresh. When you’re watching an Ailey II performance, these young artists take you on a journey for two hours. A journey that is so mesmerizing that when you leave the theater, the experience of witnessing an Ailey II performance travels with you. It almost becomes part of your life.”
Battaglia points out that Ailey II dancers are only contracted for two years, which means that about half of the company changes each season, so that even loyal Ailey II fans will see new faces.
“What makes this year’s group so unique is simply us being ourselves, our own personalities, our own dancing, our own art,” Battaglia says.
“I’m looking forward to watching 12 of the most promising dancers in the world captivate audiences at The Joyce Theater,” Powell remarks. “I’m so honored that Ailey II will be performing as an independent company this season. It will give the dancers an opportunity to grow as professional artists. This is a big step for them, and they are very excited. This is a very unique opportunity for them, one that I envy because in all my years of performing, I’ve never performed at The Joyce. Deep down in my heart, that was one of my dreams. Maybe one day, who knows.”
For tickets to Ailey II’s first independent season at The Joyce, March 17-22, purchase them online on The Joyce website, or call JoyceCharge at 212-242-0800.
Photo (top): Ailey II in Manuel Vignoulle’s breakthrough. Photo by Eduardo Patino.
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