More notes from Alvin Ailey: the audience

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The best place to sit during Saturday's performance of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater was the balcony.

The crowd up there sounded rowdy, energized, and lots of fun. Meanwhile, the orchestra level, where we were sitting, was home to the well-dressed, nonplussed, and seemingly indifferent.

Which isn't surprising when you're sitting with the folks in black tie, diamonds (lots), and ball gowns. What's heartening is that these same people who usually have the run of the Gaillard Municipal Auditorium when the symphony plays there or the Charleston Concert Association presents its quality performances there looked, well, uncomfortable.

It's true I don't know why the man in front of me spent the better part of the first intermission rolling and unrolling a table napkin behind his back while he chatted with two women with enormous jewels hanging from their ears. But given the realities of the performing arts — in which black faces are a rarity and no sane person believes that's because people are naturally self-segregating — I enjoyed thinking he was a bit perplexed at the sight of so many blue jeans, corn rows, and just plain normal-looking people.

Speaking of fashion, last night's audience was a buffet of styles. We had fun naming them. We ran out of steam before naming them all. As I said, black tie, ball gowns, seer sucker (of course), blue jeans, docker pants. I saw exactly one black man in black tie. The house was packed, though. Maybe there were more. There was a legion of Future Red Hat Ladies of America: straw hats with pastel-colored bows, cropped linen pants with some kind of tacky embroidery on them, and matching shirt too small for the full-figured. -JS

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