“It’s only ever like this when Ailey comes to town,” the patron sitting next to me elbows me in excited anticipation, commenting on the buzzing energy at the sold-out Zellerbach Hall on this Sunday afternoon. UC Berkeley’s Cal Performances is a regular stop on Ailey’s extensive domestic tour – the company has 6 months of tour commitments lined up in 2016 – and it is not hard to see and feel that they’re an audience favorite in the San Francisco Bay Area. With seven performances and three different mixed-bill programs in tow, the company got a chance to show its prismatic radiance in pieces ranging from modern to Afro-Latin Jazz and cutting-edge contemporary.

Jamar Roberts and Jacqueline Green perform Judith Jamison's <i>A Case of You</i> © Paul Kolnik
Jamar Roberts and Jacqueline Green perform Judith Jamison's A Case of You
© Paul Kolnik

In this afternoon’s matinee, the curatorial arc spans from a feel-good piece by Ronald K. Brown onwards in chronologically reverse order down the ancestral line of Ailey’s artistic directors: from the West Coast première of Robert Battle’s Awakening, to the sweet and tender duet A Case of You by Judith Jamison to the true fan favorite, Alvin Ailey’s 1960s masterpiece Revelations. It is the latter that has people jonesing for that encore and kids dancing in the auditorium aisles; that seems to be, yes, let’s call it ‘timeless.’

The afternoon’s opener, Brown’s Open Door, set to a patch-worked collage of Afro-Latin Jazz music, like many of his pieces relied on the pure entertainment value of a world-class, highly versatile ensemble dancing to celebratory tunes and it neither impressed nor disappointed. Jacqueline Green, an Ailey/Fordham BFA graduate, shone regardless: her long limbs and fluid torso coupled with an innate musicality, control, pacing and technique all topped off with that spark called charisma is irresistible to watch. Robert Battle’s Awakening overwhelmed with an earth shatteringly loud cinematic score by John Mackey. The 12 dancers led by Jeroboam Bozeman who took on the lead as somewhat of a ritualistic leader, seemingly sliced the air, creating sharp geometric floor patterns. At one point, the dancers leapt high into the air but instead of soaring into a grand jeté, they darted to the floor. Bozeman’s character brings order and stillness to the chaos every now and then – his presence magnetic. The next piece stood in complete juxtaposition – Rachael McLaren and Yannick Lebrun danced Judith Jamison’s sweet and tender A Case of You. This lyrical duet from 2004 set to Joni Mitchell’s song of the same name reminisces on the rollercoaster of a romantic relationship and strikes an undeniably irresistible sweet note.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performs <i>Revelations</i> © Christopher Duggan
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performs Revelations
© Christopher Duggan

The slightly forgettable, the harshly evocative, the sweet and intimate and the ever-enduring gospel – all that was Alvin Ailey at Zellerbach Hall. “Love it touching souls” – so sings Joni Mitchell in “A Case of You.” The love of dance as a means for personal expressions and an opportunity to bridge across decades and difference is cultivated by all involved in the Ailey legacy. The company oozes that love, leaving people with a spring in their step as they exit the theater.