“Now more than ever”: The phrase is all over the publicity for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s season at City Center this year. It’s easy to imagine why the inspiration and solace for which this company is known might be newly relevant, newly needed. Near the start of “Revelations,” the work this troupe has danced in most of its performances for decades, torqued bodies express the pain of the oppressed to the sung words “there is trouble all over this world.” At the end, those bodies rock in joyful redemption.
That arc is an Ailey guarantee, but the season’s premieres have promised a timeliness as well. Two deliver to varying degrees, but not “Walking Mad,” the 2001 calling card of the Swedish choreographer Johan Inger, new to the Ailey repertory. It’s a pretentious farce, set to “Bolero,” in which people in trench coats and bowlers push around a wall on wheels, followed by an overwrought duet about intimacy issues.
“Now more than ever, we need dance to express what words cannot.” So says the Ailey publicity, but that doesn’t mean we hear no words. In Kyle Abraham’s “Untitled America,” we hear voices of people who have been in prison, speaking of the damage wreaked upon their loved ones by enforced separation. Despite this terrible context, the words are flat, banal, their tone almost numb; Mr. Abraham’s choreography has a lot of expressing to do.