Alvin Ailey.

From our seats at the very top of the balcony the dancers, in their brightly-colored pants and tank tops, looked as small and unreal as fairies.

“Can I pick them up?” Clara whispered to me.

We went to see the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater perform in Berkeley last night. It was an amazing dance performance, even for someone, like myself, who is almost totally ignorant in the vocabulary of dance. KJ and I had seen the company perform about 15 years ago in Boston, when they did their piece called “Revelations,” which I remember as a joyous, upbeat, inspiring suite based on traditional African-American gospel music. Last night’s program was much more progressive, starting with a powerful, complex, hip-hop inspired urban explosion called “Love Stories.” Overall the evening had a lot more atonal, dissonant, and disturbing moments mixed in with the enthusiasm and excitement. Sometimes difficult stuff, but always completely awe-inspiring examples of beautiful, precise human movement.

Much relief when the evening’s final suite, the ominously-titled “Winter in Lisbon,” turned out to be an enthusiastic, impassioned jazz set, which culminated in Dizzy Gillespie’s awesomely infectious “Manteca.”

I was even more relieved, and proud, at Clara’s ability to sit through the whole concert, from 8pm (bedtime!) all the way to 10:30pm. Of course she loved running up and down the stairs and climbing on the railings during the intermissions. And from time to time she drank soymilk and snacked on an oatmeal cookie KJ smuggled in to the theater. But during the performances she was mostly quiet, still, and often completely rapt with attention.

Alvin Ailey.