Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

When: Fri., May 25, 7 p.m., Sat., May 26, 8 p.m. and Sun., May 27, 2 p.m. 2012

An American classic. The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is a national institution, like Wonder Bread or Twinkies — only way better for you. And unlike either Wonder Bread or Twinkies, the company is beloved worldwide, from Russia to Hong Kong to Queens. That's because founder Alvin Ailey believed dance should be accessible and enjoyable, or, as he once said, "a popular form wrenched from the elite." Consider it successfully wrenched, because the company's dancers perform just as easily at a YMCA as they do at a European opera house.

Bring your dancing shoes. Under new Artistic Director Robert Battle, who is the first director to be brought in from outside the company, Alvin Ailey is stepping out of its comfort zone with innovative dance numbers that include improvisation and audience participation. So if you've always wanted to show off your sweet moonwalk, this just might be your chance.

Revelations. It's the name of the Alvin Ailey's most famous dance, the one that has elicited cheers, tears, and standing ovations since its first performance in 1960 and continues to do so wherever it is performed today. And Revelations is the finale in both programs that the company is performing at Spoleto this year.

Elizabeth Pandolfi

Price: $20-$75

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