By Sanjoy Roy
21 August 2020
Some dances seem timeless; Jawole Willa Jo Zollar’s Shelter seems perennially timely. Created in 1988 in response to homelessness on the streets of New York, the piece was taken into the repertory of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1992. Zollar adapted it for her company performances in New Orleans, post-Katrina, and the Ailey company revived it again in 2017. Now showing in the online Ailey All Access season, it has become newly urgent during the coronavirus crisis.
Just 20 minutes long, it draws its power not from where it starts, but what it points to. Performed by six women (the company also perform an all-male version), it’s a ragged, scrabbling work, driven by Junior Wedderburn’s stuttering percussion and layered with spoken and sung texts that – like the bodies on stage – bring their own irregular rhythms. The opening scene, narrating the all-too-easy fall into homelessness, ends with a pivotal line: “It can happen to you, too.”
Read the full review online here.