Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater celebrates its 50th anniversary with a thrilled, packed crowd at Seattle's Paramount Theatre and a vibrant performance of "Revelations."

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Why is it that some dances never get old? “Revelations,” Alvin Ailey’s 1960 masterpiece, feels as new as spring, and as joyous as laughter. Performed before a vast crowd at the Paramount by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, the company’s trademark dance felt both familiar (there were cheers before the curtain even went up, as its gospel music began) and thrillingly fresh.

The multileveled sculpture of winged arms and curved backs in the “I Been ‘Buked” section still takes your breath away; the exuberant, rocking momentum of “Wade in the Water” and “Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham,” with the dancers’ shimmying hips and heaven-reaching arms, never fails to lift an audience to its feet. And though the company’s dancers surely have performed this work countless times, many are dancing it with the wonder of someone discovering it anew. Linda Celeste Sims, in a mournful and lovely “Fix Me, Jesus” pas de deux with Amos J. Machanic Jr., leaned impossibly backwards in arabesque, as if angels might catch her. Jamar Roberts, Antonio Douthit and Kirven J. Boyd, in “Sinner Man,” seemed to have wings on their feet.

Maurice Béjart’s 1970 “Firebird,” a stark staging of the Stravinsky ballet in which a male dancer plays the title character, opened the evening, featuring some beautiful long-lined solo work by Clifton Brown. Twyla Tharp’s “The Golden Section,” set to music by David Byrne (of The Talking Heads) exploded with happy energy, flexed-foot spins, women flying from the wings into the arms of their partners, and a constant, jivey thread of motion. And in the quiet Ailey solo “Reflections in D,” set to Duke Ellington, Antonio Douthit’s reaching arms seemed to be stroking the music, making it part of him as he melted into the floor.

AAADT is celebrating its 50th anniversary this week; a rare and remarkable milestone for any dance company. A short film at the beginning of the evening, in commemoration of the anniversary, showed fascinating footage of the company in earlier years, and allowed audiences to see the face and hear the voice of Ailey, who died in 1989. His legacy is a vibrant and glorious company that has a unique way of involving and investing an audience in its joy of movement. Happy anniversary, AAADT; long may you live.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or