Judith Jamison

Artistic Director Emerita

Judith Jamison joined Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1965 and quickly became an international star. Over the next 15 years, Mr. Ailey created some of his most enduring roles for her, most notably the tour-de-force solo Cry. During the 1970s and 80s, she appeared as a guest artist with ballet companies all over the world, starred in the hit Broadway musical Sophisticated Ladies, and formed her own company, The Jamison Project. She returned to Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1989 when Mr. Ailey asked her to succeed him as Artistic Director. In the 21 years that followed, she brought the Company to unprecedented heights – including two historic engagements in South Africa and a celebration of the Company’s 50th anniversary with a 50-city global tour and a year-long series of special performances, collaborations, events and commemorative merchandise including the photographic book Ailey Ascending: A Portrait in Motion and an Ailey Barbie® Doll by Mattel that she designed. 

Ms. Jamison is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, among them a prime time Emmy Award, an American Choreography Award, the Kennedy Center Honor, a National Medal of Arts, a “Bessie” Award, the Phoenix Award, and was presented the Handel Medallion by Mayor Bloomberg, the highest honor awarded by the City of New York.  She was also listed in “The TIME 100: The World’s Most Influential People” and honored by First Lady Michelle Obama at the first White House Dance Series event.  In 2013, Ms. Jamison was the 50thinductee into the Hall of Fame at the National Museum of Dance.

As a highly regarded choreographer, Ms. Jamison has created many celebrated works, including Divining (1984), Forgotten Time (1989), Double Exposure (for the Lincoln Center Festival in 2000), HERE . . .NOW. (commissioned for the 2002 Cultural Olympiad in Salt Lake City), LoveStories (with additional choreography by Robert Battle and Rennie Harris, 2004), and Among Us (Private Spaces: Public Places)(2009).  Her 1996 ballet Sweet Release featured original music by Wynton Marsalis and Reminiscin' (2005) was inspired by great female jazz artistis and Edward Hopper's famous painting Nighthawks.  In 1993, Ms. Jamison created Hymn as a stirring tribute to Mr. Ailey, which was the centerpiece for the Emmy award-winning PBS "Great Performances: Dance In America" special, A Hymn for Alvin Ailey

Ms. Jamison’s autobiography, Dancing Spirit, was edited by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and published in 1993.  In 2004, under Ms. Jamison’s artistic directorship, her idea of a permanent home for the Ailey company was realized and named after beloved chairman Joan Weill. Ms. Jamison continues to dedicate herself to asserting the prominence of the arts in our culture, and she remains committed to promoting the significance of the Ailey legacy – using dance as a medium for honoring the past, celebrating the present and fearlessly reaching into the future.

Featured News Releases

Ailey Icons Host Exclusive Workshops And Panels In Celebration Of 60th Anniversary

(New York) December 6, 2018 – In celebration of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s 60th Anniversary, Ailey Extension invites people to experience the life, legacy, and artistry of Alvin Ailey through intimate panels and workshops led by his illustrious former dancers. Sylvia Waters will moderate the Growing Up with Alvin Ailey Legacy Panel on December 10, featuring former Ailey stars Sarita Allen, Elizabeth Roxas-Dobrish, and Desmond Richardson as they share personal stories, individual experiences, and life lessons learned during their tenure dancing for the legendary founder. On January 5, what would have been Alvin Ailey’s 88th birthday, Artistic Director Emerita Judith Jamison leads an exclusive Celebrating Alvin Ailey Workshop to share cherished memories of Mr. Ailey and teach some of his most well-known choreography.

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.

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Judith Jamison Conducts An Exclusive Classics Workshop At The Ailey Extension To Honor Alvin Ailey’s Rich Legacy On His 86th Birthday

December 12, 2016 – On the heels of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s joyous New York City Center holiday season, Artistic Director Emerita Judith Jamison will teach an exclusive Ailey Classics Workshop on Thursday, January 5 at 7:00 p.m. to celebrate what would’ve been Alvin Ailey’s 86th birthday. Ms. Jamison will impart Ailey’s signature style, which changed the perception of American dance around the world, showing audiences that dance can truly be an expression of the spirit.

Featured Press Coverage

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Shondaland - Judith Jamison Takes Us Through 60 Years Of Alvin Ailey's Brilliance

When Judith Jamison joined the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1965, there were 10 dancers in the company. Today, six decades after Ailey and a small group of black dancers gave their inaugural performance at the 92nd Street Y in New York City, his legacy now includes more than 250 original ballets, 30 dancers, a robust educational and training program, and sold-out performances all across the globe.

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NBC Nightly News - The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Celebrates 60 Years Of Modern Dance And Creative Expression

Dancer and choreographer Alvin Ailey gathered a handful of modern black dancers in 1958 to perform with him at New York’s 92nd Street YM-YWHA. It was here that the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, as well as Ailey’s vision for a more inclusive world of the art form, was born. Since then, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has grown to include 32 dancers who have gone on to perform more than 235 works for an estimated 25 million people across six continents. This season, the dance company celebrates its 60th anniversary.