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 Dances Into 2020 With Special Workshops To Help New Yorkers Reach Their New Year's Resolutions

(New York) January 8, 2019 – This January, Ailey Extension is helping New Yorkers dance into 2020 and reach their New Year’s resolutions with workshops designed to help people get moving as they tap into new skills and experiment with different approaches to dance. Students of all experience levels are welcome to learn about and explore Ailey’s genius as a choreographer during a Celebrating Alvin Ailey workshop with Artistic Director Emerita Judith Jamison; practice confidence at an Absolute Beginner Heels workshop with celebrity dancer Jessica Castro; learn the fundamentals and flavor of Salsa from two-time world salsa champion Bruno Alexander Rodriguez; experience the richness and diversity of West African dance and drum in a day of classes at the West African Celebration with recognized choreographer Maguette Camara & Friends; or make dance a fun family affair at the West African Family Day workshop with The Ailey School instructor Imani Faye. Whether New Yorkers are looking to try new experiences, spend more time with family, take on new hobbies, or simply get moving more often, Ailey Extension has a workshop to help take steps towards their 2020 goals.

Masazumi Chaya, Beloved Mainstay Of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Celebrated With Special Performance During His Final New York City Center Season As Associate Artistic Director

NEW YORK, NY – November 25, 2019 – Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater announces programming for a historic night at Ailey celebrating Associate Artistic Director Masazumi Chaya on Sunday, December 22nd at 7:30pm at New York City Center. Previously, Robert Battle, Artistic Director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, shared the news that the Company’s beloved mainstay for nearly five decades, Mr. Chaya, intends to retire on January 5, 2020, at the conclusion of the Company’s New York City Center season. Having joined the Company in 1972 as a dancer, Mr. Chaya performed under Mr. Ailey’s direction for 15 years, subsequently assumed responsibility for rehearsing the Company—a role for which Mr. Ailey had cultivated him—and for more than 28 years, as Associate Artistic Director, has maintained the repertoire, handled innumerable creative decisions, and guided generations of the Company’s dancers.

Masazumi Chaya, Associate Artistic Director And Beloved Mainstay Of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, To Retire At The End Of Upcoming New York City Center Season

NEW YORK, NY, July 9, 2019 – Robert Battle, Artistic Director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, announced today that the Company’s beloved mainstay for nearly five decades, Associate Artistic Director Masazumi Chaya, intends to retire on January 5, 2020, following the conclusion of the Company’s New York City Center season. Having joined the Company in 1972 as a dancer, Mr. Chaya performed under Mr. Ailey’s direction for 15 years, subsequently assumed responsibility for rehearsing the Company—a role for which Mr. Ailey had cultivated him—and for more than 28 years, as Associate Artistic Director, has maintained the repertoire, handled innumerable creative decisions, and guided generations of the Company’s dancers.

Featured Press Coverage

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Katie Couric Media - Judith Jamison Of Alvin Ailey Offers Advice To Next-Generation Dancers

Judith Jamison is one of the most accomplished modern dancers and choreographers of all time. After joining the @Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1965, she achieved international fame and went on to earn the Kennedy Center Honor and a National Medal of Arts. Although she is now the Artistic Director Emerita at Alvin Ailey, to up and coming Ailey dancers like Khalia Campbell, she is simply Ms. Jamison. In this episode of Thank You Notes, Khalia reads a thank you note to Ms. Jamison.

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New York Daily News - 'Keeper Of Flame' - G'Bye

After 48 years with the celebrated Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, both as performer and choreographer, Masazumi Chaya is hanging up his dancing shoes. The Japanese-American artist will start the new year by retiring as the modern dance company's artistic director. But the man known as "The Keeper of the Flame" to some colleagues is working until his very last day with the renowned dance troupe, whose members will celebrate his legacy with a special evening of performances on Sunday at New York's City Center. He got his nickname for preserving the New York City-based company's repertoire and for training generations of dancers through the past three decades.

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New York Post - In Step With Genius

For 47 years, Masazumi Chaya has overseen Alvin Ailey's dancers - and now he's ready to move on. Masazumi Chaya, a doctor and nurse's son from Japan, expected to go to medical school. But at 17, he took a jazz-dance class and started performing on TV shows there. By 21, he wondered just how good a dancer he really was. He wanted to test himself - so he went to New York.