Originally created as a solo, this high-energy comical dance was reinvented as a duet by the Ailey company for its December 2016 opening night gala benefit, “An Evening of Ailey and Jazz" – in anticipation of the legendary singer Ella Fitzgerald’s centennial in April 2017.
Using a live concert recording of Fitzgerald performing the song “Airmail Special,” Ella matches the iconic singer’s virtuosic scatting with lightning-fast, articulated movement in an irresistible tour-de-force that leaves audiences (and the dancers) breathless.
"Ella Fitzgerald’s vocal licks met their match in the two [dancers'] twists, jumps and rubbery bounces. The concept was crazy — dancing to Fitzgerald’s stunning scat solo in her recording of 'Airmail Special,' which needs no other accessory. But Ailey’s Artistic Director Robert Battle, who choreographed Ella, is just that kind of crazy, and ambitious. And smart. Ella is a play of contrasts.... There’s Fitzgerald on the one hand, freely diddle-ee-dopping while maintaining total musical control. And the dancers, reacting explosively with the same virtuosic precision amid a rhythmic storm. A solo dance might have been impressive, but not nearly as risky. Battle ups the ante with two moving as one, hammering out a new move for every scat syllable with perfect synchrony. They didn’t have the luxury of improvisation; this was a finely drilled display, and the mind reels imagining the rehearsals leading up to it. Just as Fitzgerald abandoned intelligible lyrics, the dancers abandoned physical limits. They spun, leapt, collapsed, sprang up and slung themselves around like ink in the hand of a mad doodler.”