I’ve long been preoccupied with the blurry boundary between arts and sports. To my mind, the Rose Adagio balances in “Sleeping Beauty” and Odile’s 32 fouettés in “Swan Lake” are akin to the triple axels in figure skating competitions. It was fitting, then, that Ailey II’s New York Season, which opened last week at the Ailey Citigroup Theater, fell during March Madness. As anyone with a busted bracket knows—and that’s most people this year—stats and seeds can amount to nothing in that wild window that is a live performance. Oddly enough, most young dancers get very little performance experience until they land professional contracts. And to score those contracts, many endure cattle-call auditions that tell prospective employers little about how they might behave under the lights, in costume, in front of an audience. Rather, they are essentially hired on the basis of their piano scales. It’s not an ideal way to assess artistry.
Ailey II in Robert Battle’s “Alleluia.” Photograph by Erin Baiano