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Alvin Ailey

Alvin Ailey

Popular for his dance performances, he is an American dancer, choreographer, director, and activist. Alvin Ailey established the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AAADT). He established AAADT and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center, a haven for developing Black artists and using dance to reflect the humanity of the African-American experience.

His work, which combined theatre, contemporary dance, ballet, & jazz with Black language, was created by this amazing man who also called himself gay. It resulted in uplifting choreography that has continued to raise awareness of Black existence in America on a global scale. One of the most well-known and widely practised ballets in the world is Ailey's masterwork, Reflections.

In this piece, he combined elements of jazz, modern, and first dancing with a focus on small Black Towns and rural areas.

Full name- Alvin Ailey

Birth date- January 5, 1931

Birthplace- Rogers, Texas

Profession- Dancer, Choreographer, director

Founder of - Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Alvin Ailey American Dance Center

A resolution establishing AAADT as an "essential American cultural ambassador to the World" was approved by the US Congress on July 15, 2008. When AAADT celebrated its 50th anniversary in the same year, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg proclaimed December 4 to be "Alvin Ailey Day" in New York City, and then-Gov. David Paterson recognized the group on behalf of New York State.

Birth and Early Life

Ailey was prevented from engaging with the rest of society as a child since he was raised in Rogers, Texas, at the peak of the financial crisis in the viciously racist and integrated south. His mom and dad Lula were forced to labor in cotton plantations, and as domestic service in white homes, since it was the only job they could find when his father, Alvin Ailey Sr. left him, all this happened at the small age of three months. Also, this was not enough to protect him. His childhood passed, travelling from one place to another while his mom looked for work, being left behind with family if she went off entirely on herself, or witnessing her being molested by a white man as she had just a 5-year-old kid with her.

In search of better employment opportunities, Ailey's mother moved to Los Angeles in 1941. After moving there, he attended George Washington Carver Junior High School before transferring to Thomas Jefferson High School and graduating there a year later. He witnessed the Katherine Dunham Dance Troupe and Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo dance at the Los Angeles Philharmonic Hall in 1946, which was his first encounter with professional dance. This made him feel a delight he hadn't known before.

However, he didn't take dance seriously till 1949, after Carmen De Lavallade, a friend and colleague, took him to Lester Horton's workshop on Melrose Avenue. At Horton's school, one of the initially racially diverse dance schools in the country, Ailey learned a broad range of dance forms and methods, from ballet to Native American-inspired motion studies.

Despite the fact that Horton served as his teacher, Ailey chose to continue academic studies at UCLA, where he studied romance languages & writing. In 1951, he carried on with related research at San Francisco State. He met Maya Angelou, who was Marguerite Johnson at the time, while he was residing in San Francisco, and the two of them started a cabaret activity called "Al and Rita."

Starting Off His Career

In 1953, he joined the Horton dance company and made his stage debut in the Revue Le Bal Caribe. Horton's abrupt death from a heart condition the following year in November left the business without even a leader. Ailey stepped over as creative director & choreographer since nobody else was ready to and in order to conclude the group's urgent business engagements.

Alvin Ailey

New partnership Carmen de Lavallade & Alvin Ailey

Herbert Ross enlisted De Lavallade & Ailey in 1954 to perform in the Broadway play House of Flowers. The two, who had developed a reputation as a well-known dance partnership in Los Angeles, had been engaged by Ross to take George Balanchine's position as the show's composer, and Ross planned to employ them as lead dancers.

Truman Capote converted one of his novels into a book for the television series, which featured Pearl Bailey & Diahann Carroll and featured music by Harold Arlen. At the time of the performance, Geoffrey Holder, who joined them in the duet, was introduced to Ailey and De Lavallade. Holder married De Lavallade and worked with Ailey on art projects for the rest of his life. Following the end of House of Flowers, Ailey performed with Mary Hinkson in Harry Belafonte's traveling cabaret Sing, Man, Sing, and in the 1957 Broadway production of Jamaica, which featured Lena Horne & Ricardo Montalbán. Ailey began assembling dancers to present his distinctive dance concept after being attracted to the art form but failing to locate choreographers who could give creations to satisfy him.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Ailey established the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1958 to carry out his plan to use dance to commemorate Black culture. Ailey's first best work of art, Blues Suite, which accompanied male and female as they caroused and frolicked well over the duration of a night while blues music was played behind until church bells started to ring, signaling a return to everyday life, was performed during the company's debut at the 92nd Street Y. Once more at the 92nd Avenue Y, Ailey debuted Revelations, his most well-known and highly praised piece, in 1960. For Disclosures, Ailey relied on his "blood emotions" childhood life in Texas where there were black people all around, the churches, religious music, as well as the blues.

The relationship did not go well and ended a few years later. Ailey struggled with the state department tours, which insisted on marketing the company as an "ethnic" company rather than a modern dance company, and were closely supervised by the FBI - the latter referred to Ailey's homosexuality as "lewd and criminal tendencies" and threatened his company with bankruptcy if he showed any signs of effeminate or homosexual behavior while on tour.

On the evening of a trip to Russia as a cultural partnership arrangement and with fewer reservations on the horizon, Ailey declared at a media conference in 1970 that he was shutting the business. In retaliation, the State Department funded a trip to North Africa by Ailey to buy time. The team visited Russia in August of that year and was wildly welcomed there. Over 22 million people watched the broadcast of their performances on Moscow television.

The owner offered almost 30 dramatic rises on the closing night since the Russian public would not quit cheering. The company offered a two-week performance there at ANTA Theater after coming back home and sharing the joy of their victory. Despite the fact that Ailey created well over 100 ballets for his performers, he requested that the group create a significant impact on works by other composers rather than serve as the sole platform for his ideas.

Ailey proudly hired performers based only on artistic merit and integrity, regardless of nationality, even though AAADT was founded to showcase African American culture and also to give programs for black dancers who were usually refused opportunities owing to racial mores of the time. Ailey not only choreographed ballets for AADT but also for American Ballet Theatre, Joffrey Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet, as well as the Metropolitan Theatre in parallel to his roles as artistic director & composer for AADT. He made The River (1970), one of the many dance numbers he adapted to the smooth jazz of, for the American Ballet Theater of Duke Ellington. James Truitt entered the dance group in 1960 and became an expert on Horton's method.

After his passing in 1989, she assumed the role of artistic director. Some notable members of the group are Sylvia Waters. In 1974, they accepted Ailey's invitation to head The Alvin Ailey Theater Ensemble, a junior group currently known as Ailey 2, which trains young dancers for jobs in the industry. - and Masazumi Chaya, an assistant creative director after dancing for the group for 15 years, took over as practice director.

Opening of The Ailey School

Along with Pearl Lang, the renowned co-director of the Martha Graham Dance Group and chief choreographer, Ailey launched the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center in 1969. They wanted under-resourced communities to have exposure to the culture and dancing. They began with 125 kids in Brooklyn. The school moved to Manhattan, near the Lincoln Center complex, a year after. Denise Jefferson took over as director in 1984. In 1998, the school created a Degree of Fine Arts Program in collaboration with Fordham University under her direction.

In 1999, the institution changed its name to The Ailey School. The school relocated to The Joan Weill Center for Dance a few years ago. After Jefferson passed away in 2010, Tracy Inman & Melanie Person took over management of the institution. Sylvia Water departed in 2012 following 38 years as the director of Ailey 2. Troy Powell, house performer & assistant director for the new firm, took over as creative director. The Elaine Wynn & Parental Educational Wing has been added, and the Ailey school is currently the most extensive facility in New York City dedicated to dancer instruction. James Truitte entered the dance group in 1960 and eventually earned a reputation as an expert on Horton's method.

The artist Judith Jamison has been Ailey's inspiration since she joined the company in 1965. She debuted Cry in 1971, with a dedication to his mom and all black ladies. After his passing in 1989, she assumed the role of artistic director. Ailey questioned Sylvia Waters to guide The Alvin Ailey Theater Combination, a younger business that today is referred to as Ailey 2, in 1974 following her having performed with the corporation for six years. Masazumi Chaya, who started dancing with the corporation for 15 years before taking on the role of auditions director, was named assistant artistic director in 1991. Both of these individuals are significant to the company's members.

Influence and Death

Ailey passed away on December 1, 1989, just at the young age of 58, from an AIDS-related condition. To spare his mom from the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS, he urged his physician to declare that his death was related to a terminal blood dyscrasia. Although Ailey's art has received both academic and public recognition, his theatrical approach has its critics.

Marcia Siegel charged the business with "A favourable stereotypical image of "stupendously physiological, super sensitive creatures" is developed at the cost of authenticity, and Martha Graham and his contemporary dance instructors' empathetic qualities are amplified and transformed into "analogies of the American black expertise."

Ailey stated in response to such critique, "I am a member of the black compositions that we perform, which are inspired by gospel, blues, & gospel music. They are as sincere and forthright as we are capable of making them. I'm keen on producing something that will be accessible to a large public without ever being patronising."

Personal affairs

Ailey desired to be popularly known as a dancer and detested the moniker "Black choreographer." He had a reputation for being quite secretive. Despite being gay, he maintained his relationships private. Ailey had a psychological collapse in 1980 due to the passing of his companion Joyce Trisler, a lost romance, and episodes of binge drinking & cocaine usage. He was identified as having a manic-depressive condition, sometimes referred to as bipolar disorder. Co-directing AAADT during his recuperation was Judith Jamison.


The American premiere of Jamila Wignot's film Ailey took place in 2021. When Wignot was an undergraduate scholar at Wellesley College, she attended a presentation of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Group and became familiar with their work; "What appears is a magnificent character who earned worldwide renown with art rooted in individual perspective, yet was too reluctant to divulge his actual self even within funeral fully," writes Alexandra Villarreal of Such Guardian in her film over 20 years later.

Alvin Ailey was one of the best dancers ever, he is an inspiration to many and even today his initiatives are working for equality and good efforts. He did a lot of popular dance choreography, dance numbers, acting, and as well as dance directors.

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