Critic’s Curtain Time Confounded by City Center Vax Card Protocol; On Stage, a ‘Grand and Complex’ Ailey Classic

AAADT in Jamar Roberts’ “Holding Space.” | Photo by Christopher Duggan

BY ELIZABETH ZIMMER | You gotta hand it to New York City Center, where the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is in residence through December 19. Two works had world premieres on the night of Friday, December 3, followed by the evergreen hit Revelations.

I was to review the program. On the subway heading to the theater, I realized I’d left my handbag at home—which means, for those of you still in hiding, hoping the coronavirus will blow away, that I didn’t have my vax card, my phone, or my wallet. My MetroCard malfunctioned en route; my young companion saved the day with her credit card.

I lined up to enter the theater, hoping that being a frequent patron of City Center, carrying some ID (the aforementioned MetroCard, which has my photo on it), and scheduled to write about the show might spare me the legions of security folk checking vax cards, IDs, and the contents of our carryalls. I demanded to see the house manager. Even she stood firm.

They would not be swayed. I was freaked out, but at the same time full of admiration for the rigor with which they protect their audience from COVID. As the clock ticked toward curtain time, I decided the only solution was go home, get the purse with my vax card and ID, and try again.

I hopped in a cab (wonder of wonders! an empty cab!) and made the cliché remark about all deliberate speed. As we started back downtown, who should flash across the cab’s TV screen but Chelsea Community News’ own Michael Musto, a longtime (former Village Voice) colleague and friend, in the recent episode of Open House profiling his apartment! I pressed a button to increase the volume and somehow managed to break the equipment, losing his charming visage and making it impossible for me to pay for the ride with my credit card. I told the cabbie I’d be right down with cash. When I returned with my bag, he was gone.

I ran to Eighth Avenue and hailed another cab, which got stuck in the crawling traffic back to City Center. Disembarking, I dashed through security, waving my ticket, my vax card, and my ID, just as the second premiere was finishing up.

L to R: AAADT in Alvin Ailey’s “Revelations.” | Photo by Paul Kolnik

So I offer apologies to Jamar Roberts, the company’s resident choreographer, whose new work, Holding Space (to music by Tim Hacker), I missed completely, and to Ailey’s artistic director Robert Battle, whose premiere for his troupe, For Four, to a recording by Wynton Marsalis, was just finishing on the TV screen in the lobby when I stormed in. There’ll be a whole evening of Battle’s works on December 7, 10, and 17, and Jamar Roberts will be celebrated with two of his dances, plus For Four and Revelations on December 9, and with an excerpt from Holding Space on the season’s grand finale on December 19.

In close to 50 years of writing about the arts, I’ve never before been denied entry to a theater. But these are perilous times, and I commend City Center’s management for holding the line against an uncarded imposter. And I kick myself many times over.

I made it to my excellent seat in time for Revelations, the 1960 masterwork by the troupe’s founder that closes most programs on this relatively short Ailey season. After a long layoff, the company is looking terrific, young and slender and extremely focused. Many of the dancers filmed excerpts from Revelations at home during 2020. I’ve seen this piece probably 25 times in the past 60 years, and it never gets stale, but on Friday I found myself thinking that the finale, a grand and complex celebration of faith by nine church ladies in bright yellow finery and nine dapper young men, might gain some verismo if we could see it performed by the matrons who inspired it, twice the age and twice the weight of the stunning women on the stage.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, various time/dates through December 19, at New York City Center (131 W. 55th St.). Tickets and info via or 212-581-1212.


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