By Zadie Smith. When I was about 12, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater came to town and my mother took me to see them. It was a trip for just us two, and I was a little reluctant, suspecting some species of racial uplift, which I felt I could receive far more easily by staying in my room, listening to Movie Love and watching Cameo's "Word Up" video on repeat. I was suspicious of racial uplift in general. The way it always seemed to point in the same direction, toward the supposed "higher" arts: the theater but not the television, opera singers but not beatboxers, ballet dancers but not body-poppers. No Jamaican mother ever ran into a kid's bedroom, waving a cassette, crying: "Have you heard 'Push It'? It's by some brilliant young ladies from New York!" Yet I couldn't imagine anything on the legitimate stage meaning as much to me as Salt-N-Pepa's bump and grind.
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NEW YORK (AP) — It was March 1958 when an African-American dancer named Alvin Ailey, then making his living on the Broadway stage, gathered up a group of fellow dancers and presented a one-night show of his own works. In the audience at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan was 18-year Sylvia Waters, who was studying dance across town at Juilliard. She had never seen anything like it. “It was absolutely riveting,” she says now. “I had never seen men dance like that.” Most exciting to Waters was seeing people dance “who I could relate to,” she says. “There was something so visceral about the experience. We didn’t know at the time that it was history, but it was definitely special.”
Modern dance is waning in popularity, and young people don't seem to feel as connected with the work anymore. So what's a 60-year-old ballet company like Alvin Ailey to do to seem limber again?
Alvin Ailey's groundbreaking dance company is celebrating its 60th anniversary with a season at New York City Center. Take a step back through their sensational past productions.
There aren't many people left on earth who can speak to the spirit of Alvin Ailey - not in terms of his dances or the institution he created, but the man. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater celebrates its 60th anniversary this season and along with that, the work of another choreographer who mercifully is on earth right now: Ronald K. Brown. Through his dances, he speaks to the spirit of Ailey, and for nearly 20 years now he has enriched Ailey's company with unaffected, soulful choreography that gives its dancers dimension and depth.
We celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, a jewel in Manhattan’s artistic crown.
Newsweek - Alvin Ailey 60th Year Celebration: Judith Jamison, Robert Battle And More Honor The Legacy Of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
When Alvin Ailey set out to start his own dance company in New York City in 1958, he likely had no idea his passion and call to dance would result in a nearly 85,000-square-foot performance center bearing his name and thousands of students entering its doors day after day, while company dancers traveled to perform his choreography on stages around the globe. He certainly couldn't have known his effort to create a safe and esteemed place for dancers from all walks of life would extend well past his 1989 death, some 30 years.
Ruschell Boone looks at the history of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater with current and former artistic directors Robert Battle and Judith Jamison. They also discuss the 60th season, which is having performances at New York City Center through December 30th.
1982 BOOK OF REVELATIONS. "Alvin Ailey pulled things out of me that I didn't even know were there," says Donna Wood Sanders, pictured here with the legendary dancer and choreographer in our November 1982 issue.