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Alvin Ailey Dance Theater brings 'Revelations' to Ruth Eckerd Hall

Kirven James Boyd’s muscular form seems weightless as he leaps.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Kirven James Boyd’s muscular form seems weightless as he leaps.

There are a number of landmarks in Tuesday night's performance by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at Ruth Eckerd Hall. For one thing, the company's signature work, Revelations, is marking its 50th anniversary.

Judith Jamison danced with the Ailey company before becoming artistic director in 1989, and she has a vivid memory of the first time she was in Revelations.

"The wheels were spinning pretty fast back then," Jamison says. "It was a whirlwind, one in which you were in the eye of the storm, and it was glorious. And it remains that way. It's the exact same steps, but each generation brings something fresh to it and keeps it alive and sustains its integrity."

Ailey, who died in 1989, choreographed his ballet to Negro spirituals, and he frequently performed solos in it. "Alvin Ailey did not look like your — quote — dancer," Jamison says. "He looked like an athlete. He was very muscular. He was also very handsome. He could stop traffic, I was told, back in the day. He moved like water. He moved like a mighty river."

One of the soloists in Revelations is Briana Reed, featured in Fix Me, Jesus. A member of the company since 1998, Reed began her dance training at the Academy of Ballet Arts and the Pinellas County Center for the Arts at Gibbs High School in St. Petersburg, and is one of at least five Floridians in the company. Jamison herself has Florida ties; her mother is from Bartow and she had a great-aunt in St. Petersburg.

Revelations is the finale on Tuesday's program, which also features a short documentary film on the work. The company will perform three other works, including The Hunt, with choreography by Robert Battle, who will succeed Jamison as artistic director in July.

The retirement of Jamison, 67, is the other landmark of the Ailey tour. She isn't shedding any tears over her departure.

"Bittersweet? It's not bittersweet at all," she says. "This is the natural evolution of things. Mr. Ailey handed the company to me. When the time came for me to take over the company, I was prepared to do so. Now I think Robert is prepared to do so. I hand it to him lovingly. After 21 years of doing this, and 15 years dancing with the company, this is a sweet time for me."

The Ailey company performs at 8 p.m. Tuesday at Ruth Eckerd Hall, Clearwater. $37-$58. (727) 791-7400; rutheckerdhall.com.

• • •

Jeff Norton, the Tampa Bay actor who was the victim of a senseless murder in July, has inspired the formation of a Los Angeles theater company called the Norton People. The company, which includes actors who went to the University of South Florida, where Norton taught, made its debut this month with a production of Mr. Kolpert, a farce by German playwright David Gieselmann.

Mr. Kolpert is about the absurdity of life and the sometimes randomness of violence. These are issues we all dealt with when Jeff died," Norton People member Kimberly Dilts said in a news release. "He made us laugh, he made us think, he helped us to develop the discipline it takes to live a creative life. We lost him in such a random, absurd way — life is like that sometimes, and the play acknowledges such. I also think the play is wickedly funny, and Jeff was very much that as well."

A pretrial hearing for Thomas J. Lafoe, charged in Norton's murder, is scheduled for April 14 at the Criminal Justice Center in Clearwater.

John Fleming can be reached at fleming@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8716.

Alvin Ailey Dance Theater brings 'Revelations' to Ruth Eckerd Hall 02/12/11 [Last modified: Saturday, February 12, 2011 3:30am]
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