Alvin Ailey

Founder

Born in Rogers, Texas on January 5, 1931, Alvin Ailey was introduced to dance by performances of the Katherine Dunham Dance Company and the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo.  His formal dance training began with an introduction to Lester Horton's classes by his friend, Carmen de Lavallade.
 
When Mr. Ailey began creating dances, he drew upon his "blood memories" of Texas, the blues, spirituals and gospel as inspiration, which resulted in the creation of his most popular and critically acclaimed work–Revelations. 
 
Although he created 79 ballets over his lifetime, Alvin Ailey maintained that his company was not exclusively a repository for his own work.  Today, the Company continues Mr. Ailey's mission by presenting important works of the past and commissioning new ones.  In all, more than 200 works by over 80 choreographers are part of the Ailey company’s repertoire.
 
Before his untimely death in 1989, Alvin Ailey asked Judith Jamison to become Artistic Director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.  Remaining committed to furthering Alvin Ailey’s legacy, she has brought the Company to unprecedented success. Ms. Jamison wrote in her autobiography, Dancing Spirit, “I hope I'm a continuation of Alvin's vision.  He has left me a road map.  It's very clear.  It works.
 
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater grew from the now-fabled performance in March 1958 at the 92nd Street Y in New York.  Led by Alvin Ailey and a group of young African-American modern dancers, that performance changed forever the perception of American dance.  The Ailey company has gone on to perform for an estimated 23 million people in 48 states and in 71 countries on six continents, including two historic residencies in South Africa.  In 2008, the U.S. Congress designated the Company as “a vital American cultural ambassador to the world,” promoting the uniqueness of the African-American cultural experience and the preservation and enrichment of the American modern dance heritage.

Featured News Releases

Ailey Ascending 60th Anniversary Celebration Honors Groundbreaking Founder While Taking Bold New Leaps To Elevate Organization's Reach And Impact

August 1, 2018 (NEW YORK CITY) —When Alvin Ailey and a small group of African American modern dancers first took the stage in 1958, appearing at New York City’s 92nd Street Y, the engagement was for one night only—but it turned out to be the start of a new era in the performing arts. Mr. Ailey became one of the groundbreaking greats in African American history, while the work of his Company grew beyond the limits of the stage to encompass education at all levels, community outreach and cultural diplomacy. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater now embodies six decades of achievement, celebrating the human spirit with performances that unite and inspire all.

Featured Press Coverage

WallStreetJournal_AAADT_AileyAllAccess_Revelations_Feature_Print_6.3.20

The Wall Street Journal - 'Revelations' For Trying Times

Since 2013, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has appeared annually at Lincoln Center's David H. Koch Theater. This year is the exception, somewhat. As part of its Ailey All Access series of online presentations, begun March 30 in the wake of the pandemic, the troupe has been working on ways to still offer a June season of a sort. Before the theater shutdown, live performances had been scheduled for June 10 to 14. Instead, starting this Thursday at 8 p.m. EDT, viewers at home will be able to stream a four-part mixed bill, performed on the Koch stage, the was filmed in 2015.

PBSNewsHour_AAADT_AileyAllAccess_AlvinAiley_JackMitchell_Feature_5.12.20

PBS News Hour - Alvin Ailey's Beautiful Vision For Dance, Captured In Thousands Of Photos

It’s a simple photograph: a young man staring directly into the camera, arms folded. In the image captured in 1962, dance maestro Alvin Ailey looks defiant. Rhea Combs also sees something else when she looks at the black-and-white image. To her, the fact that photographer Jack Mitchell captured the performer shirtless is a visual metaphor, as if Ailey is telling the viewer, “I’m just baring my chest to the world and giving my all,” Combs said.

SmithsonianMagazine_AAADT_AlvinAiley_JackMitchell_Feature_1.24.20

Smithsonian Magazine - Trove Of Stunning Dance Photography Now Online

Modern dance impresario Alvin Ailey once asked photographer Jack Mitchell to shoot publicity images of his dancers for their next performance without even knowing the title of their new work. Seeing “choreography” in the images Mitchell produced, Ailey leapt into an ongoing professional relationship with Mitchell. “I think that speaks to the trust that they had in one another,” says Rhea Combs, a curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. Ailey “knew it would work out somehow, some way.” This partnership, which began in the 1960s, led to the production of more than 10,000 memorable images, and the museum has now made those photos available online.