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 Extension Online Jumps Into The New Year With New Ways To Join In The Dance

New York – January 5, 2021– Ailey Extension is stepping into 2021 with a range of inspiring new ways for students to dive into the world of dance. Throughout January the program’s “real classes for real people” will introduce two new weekly wellness classes; bring back the popular Kids & Teens Online Dance Series; and host a workshop led by Artistic Director Emerita Judith Jamison, in honor of our founder Alvin Ailey just days after what would have been his 90th birthday. Each new offering adds to the booming selection of online options available for dancers of all ages and experience levels.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Presents Ailey Forward - First-Ever Virtual Season Celebrating Six Decades Of Revelations December 2 - 31, 2020

New York – November 10, 2020 – This holiday season, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will continue a tradition of uplifting and uniting audiences across the globe with a free virtual engagement celebrating six decades of Revelations, thanks to the generous support of Bank of America. Nine special presentations extending from December 2 – 31 will each be available online for a one-week period and open to all. Ailey’s extraordinary dancers will elevate a legacy of innovation and excellence in artistry with a reimagined season featuring premieres by Ailey’s Resident Choreographer Jamar Roberts; and Associate Artistic Director Matthew Rushing, in partnership with Company member and Assistant to the Rehearsal Director Clifton Brown, and former Company member Yusha-Marie Sorzano; a variety of other distinct programs; and a series of BattleTalk conversations, moderated by Artistic Director Robert Battle.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Invites Viewers To Enjoy Family Programs During Ailey Forward - First-Ever Virtual Season Celebrating Six Decades Of Revelations

New York – December 4, 2020 – Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater invites families around the world to gather for special family programming during Ailey Forward – the Company’s first-ever virtual holiday season. Led by Artistic Director Robert Battle, Ailey’s extraordinary dancers will elevate a legacy of artistic innovation and excellence while celebrating six decades of Alvin Ailey’s timeless Revelations. Nine presentations through the holidays, each available free online for a week, carry on the tradition of uplifting audiences and making dance accessible to all with engaging family-friendly programs and interactive experiences to uplift and unite across generations.

Featured Press Coverage

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Town & Country - Amazing Grace - Still, We Dance: An Ode To The Deliverance And Joy Of Self-Expression

Every year, in theaters and concert halls around the globe, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater takes audiences to church. Not just any house of worship, but the working-class, Black, Southern temples of rural Texas. The gospel they see and feel is Revelations, the company’s signature dance, which has been staged more often than the troupe’s other celebrated works, for some 25 million fans. This year Revelations turns 60, and it has lost none of its incantatory power.

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NPR's Here & Now - Celebrating 'Revelations' In These Times

If life were normal this spring, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater would be on the road performing its annual national tour. They'd be celebrating the 60th anniversary of the company's signature work, “Revelations”, described by The New York Times as “modern dance's unquestionably greatest hit.”