The 31 dancers in the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater are dedicated to preserving American modern-dance history. Founded in 1958 when Ailey and a group of young black dancers began performing in New York City, the company is part of that history. Ailey, who died in 1989, choreographed 79 ballets, combining classical ballet and African dance forms. Born in 1931 in Rogers, Texas, he used his early Sunday school experiences as inspiration for two of his most popular and enduring works, Blues Suite and Revelations, which incorporate spirituals, song-sermons, gospels, and holy blues. The troupe will perform Revelations plus other selections today through Sunday at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW 5th Ave, Fort Lauderdale. Ticket prices range from $15 to $45. Curtain is at 8 p.m. today, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 1:30 p.m. Sunday. Call 954-523-6116.
In the Nineteenth Century, Charles Darwin pretty much mapped out the evolution of plants and animals, but scientists today are still debating exactly where humans came from. While many agree that humans and apes have a common ancestor, the scientific community is split into two main theoretical camps: the "out of Africa" proponents and the multiregionalists. University of Michigan paleoanthropology professor Milford Wolpoff -- who coauthored Race and Human Evolution (Simon & Schuster, 1997) with his wife, Rachel Caspari -- is a "multi" fan. His opposition believes that modern Homo sapiens is a relatively young species that evolved in a central locale: Africa. But in his book Wolpoff argues, "We will never find a cradle of modern humanity, because a single source for modern humans does not exist." The professor will explain his views today during the free lecture "Neanderthals, Extinctions, and the Pattern of Human Evolution." It begins at 4 p.m. in the College of Liberal Arts Building Auditorium at Florida Atlantic University's Davie Campus, 2912 College Ave., Davie. Call 954-236-1145.
No one bathed, and deodorant had yet to be invented. Dogs were used as napkins as they roamed under the dinner table, and chastity belts were in vogue. Ah, what fun those medieval times were. Celebrating the era is the Florida Renaissance Festival, which kicks off today and runs every weekend through March 1 at Topeekeegee Yugnee Park (3300 N. Park Rd., Hollywood). In fairness the Renaissance was a transitional time, when men and women worked on becoming more civilized, beginning in the Fourteenth Century. In retrospect the age looks bright, as the festival illustrates with its merry minstrels and maidens in period costume (and fresh from the shower so as not to offend ye festival patrons). Knights in full armor joust and indulge in other tournament games. A juried art show features works by more than 100 artists displaying blown glass, hammered pewter, wooden toys, and pottery. Food concessions and entertainment on ten stages are also part of the fun. It's open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is $5 for children and $11.95 for adults. Call 954-776-1642.
The Japanese word for it is ikebana. So you guys who don't want to let on that you're headed to a flower-arranging seminar, just mumble the word under your breath, and your friends will think you're going to Benihana. Flower Sculpture: Japanese Style is a seminar on the intricate Japanese style of flower arrangement. It's been referred to as "living art," and members of the Sogetsu Ikebana's Florida branch demonstrate the process as it applies to traditional, contemporary, even futuristic styles. The seminar takes place today and Sunday at the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, 4000 Morikami Park Rd., Delray Beach. Arrangements are on view from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days; demonstrations take place at 1:30 p.m. Admission is $7 in advance and $10 at the door. Call 561-495-0233.
If you have to ask how much it costs, you can't afford it, the saying goes. But don't let that stop you from checking out the decked-out houses in one of West Palm Beach's tony lakefront neighborhoods during today's El Cid Historic Home Tour. The fifteen homes on view from 2 to 6 p.m. -- most built between 1920 and 1958 -- are part of the El Cid Historic Neighborhood Association. The El Cid enclave is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and its houses are known for their 1920s Mediterranean Revival, Mission, Monterey, Colonial Revival, Bungalow, and Art Deco styles. The money raised from the event will be used for projects in the historic neighborhood. Tickets cost $25 in advance and may be purchased at the Carefree Theatre box office, 2000 S. Dixie Hwy., West Palm Beach. Admission is $30 the day of the event, and tickets are available at Ann Norton Sculpture Gardens, 253 Barcelona Rd., West Palm Beach. Call 561-655-2716.
Elvis Presley may be considered the King of rock 'n' roll, but Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller -- the songwriting team responsible for "Hound Dog" and "Jailhouse Rock," among others -- were penning songs long before Presley was even prince. Both were born in 1933 and began their partnership in 1950, when they discovered they had a mutual love for boogie-woogie and the blues. By the time they were twenty years old, some of their songs had been recorded by Ray Charles. After "Hound Dog" burned up the charts in 1956, they continued to write a string of hits through the '60s, including "Love Potion No. 9," "Stand by Me," "Yakety Yak," and "Charlie Brown." Nine dancers perform in vignettes set to those songs and more in Smokey Joe's Cafe: The Songs of Leiber and Stoller, which runs today through February 8 at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach. Showtimes are Tuesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets range in cost from $34.50 to $53.50. Call 800-572-8471 or 561-832-7469.
If you don't know the difference between a hammock -- which hangs between trees -- and a hammock -- a dry coastal forest area -- the South Florida Ecosystems class series is for you. Considering all the concrete and steel we see in our cities every day, it may not be apparent that Broward County is really a microcosm of South Florida, which is home to a myriad of natural habitats. Adults can learn all about hammocks, pinelands, wetlands, and the animal species dependent on those habitats for survival during the series of Wednesday lectures (7:30 to 9 p.m.) and Saturday hiking field trips (9 to 11 a.m.) offered by the Broward County Parks and Recreation Division today through February 28. "It's definitely going to promote a stewardship for South Florida, an appreciation for what we have right here in our back yard," claims Dan Cotter, a Secret Woods Nature Center park naturalist and a teacher in the series. Cost for the series is $22. Preregistration is required. Call 954-791-1030.