Tisch alumnus Jacoby Pruitt returned to his home turf Wednesday evening for Ailey 2’s New York season premiere at the NYU Skirball Center for the Performing Arts. Under the direction of Troy Powell, the evening revolved around three new works, choreographed for the 12 talented and diverse dancers of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre’s second company.
“Circular,” choreographed by Jae Man Joon, opened with the company in silhouetted, statuesque poses against a barren, atmospheric and chrome-colored landscape. Dancer Tara Bellardini’s miniscule solo movements began the piece in silence before thumbing piano keys signaled the rest of Ailey 2 to join the sporadic leg and arm movements — a motif in Joon’s choreography.
A noteworthy moment from “Circular” featured the company in a huddle, vaguely lit from the chest up by lighting from the wings while engaging in synchronized upper body choreography. Downstage, under a warm, yellow spotlight, a soloist male was on display in flesh-toned tights.
Additionally, an all-too-rare male-on-male pas de deux, danced by the exquisite Christopher Wilson and Jacoby Pruitt, highlighted the musically complex and choreographically collective “Circular.”
“Stream of Consciousness,” choreographed by Marcus Jarrell Willis, began abruptly with Antonio Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons.” Khalia Campbell and company, garbed in Catholic school uniforms, danced on a foggy, gothic-lit stage as if revolting in the schoolyard, and at some moments appearing possessed.
These dark themes soon disappeared, bringing forth lighter and comedic movement. Dancers Gabriel Hyman and Bellardini cut loose, engaged in a freestyle dance-off. The company mimicked school-kid archetypes such as hyperactivity and falling asleep in class.
“Sketches of Flames,” the final and most fiery piece of the evening, was set against a sultry red backdrop and featured choreography by Bridget L. Moore. A departure from classical ballet positions and controlled technique, “Flames” was a jazzy, Latin and hip-hop fusion of flamenco steps and sassy choreography and garnered much applause.
Pruitt, a member of Ailey 2 since 2015, enjoyed significant stage time in both “Circular” and “Sketches of Flames,” with his classical ballet facility and modern movements. He admitted to owing much of this success to his time studying at Tisch.
“You learn how to be an independent artist,” Pruitt said. “You learn how to take class, show up and motivate yourself. Leaving Tisch, I knew exactly what I wanted to accomplish as a new artist out of college.”
By dancing with the company, Pruitt considered it a giant honor to share Mr. Ailey’s legacy.
“Mr. Ailey started this company to really give a voice to the unheard,” Pruitt said. “He built this safe space to reflect society and his own shared story and struggles on the main stage.”
On top of their touring schedule, Pruitt and Ailey 2 further promote Ailey’s legacy of inclusivity through community outreach, lecture demonstrations and master classes in local schools and communities.
“Mr. Ailey has a really famous quote — ‘Dance came from the people and should always be delivered back to the people,’” Pruitt said. “And that is really at the core of what we do at Alvin Ailey.”
A version of this article appeared in the April 3 print edition.