Robert Battle may not assume his new position as Ailey’s Artistic Director until next spring, but his ballets are already a mainstay of the Company’s repertory. This season of his most popular and well-known works, The Hunt, will have its eagerly-anticipated Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater premiere.
Set to a thundering percussion soundtrack by Les Tambours du Bronx, this ballet for six men is a primal ritual with a distinctly urban feel, examining the relationship between modern sports and the rites of the gladiators. Costumed in long black skirts with under layers of red, the dancers throw themselves into a pre-hunt ceremony, clawing at their gaping mouths as they stomp and pound with thunderous power, revealing the robust side of human nature and the thrill of the hunt.
This work has been electrifying Ailey 2 audiences since 2002 and in 2008, The Boston Globe proclaimed, “The evening’s most thrilling dance was The Hunt… A manic intensity evoked the brutality of the hunters, the fear of the prey and the exhaustion of the chase.”
“The Hunt was a dance I choreographed in 2001 and the work really deals with the fact that I studied martial arts before I studied dance,” Robert Battle says. “And so some of the physicality and some of the intensity of the work comes from directly from that martial arts background.”
“But also The Hunt is about camaraderie. It’s a vigorous exercise for six men that are going through a sort of abstract ritual together,” Battle continues. “So either they’re preparing for the hunt… You can think of it as many different types of hunts, but really it is about that kind of energy of spurring one another on to gather together to do this chore to prepare one another for the actual hunt. It’s very percussive… It’s very energetic, very exciting.”
Replicating the intensity, skirted costumes and combative stances of martial arts, the dancers take audiences inside a spirited ritual preparation that tests their physical bounds and limits. Battle explains that the aggressive nature of the piece makes it different from all other works in the Company’s repertory. He notes that The Hunt shows the versatility of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, while celebrating the power, strength and intensity of the Company’s male dancers.