In 1960, America was in the midst of a social transformation. The Supreme Court had ruled "separate but equal" unconstitutional six years prior, but the country's response was slow and turbulent as desegregation incited violent responses. Surrounded by powerful civil rights momentum, a 29-year-old Alvin Ailey created an ode to the resilience of the human spirit: Revelations.
A crowd filled the little steps of City Hall Wednesday morning for the historic marker dedication for legendary hometown dancer and choreographer Alvin Ailey. Rogers Mayor Tammy Cockrum, who emceed the event, said she was not only impressed by the town's response with more than 50 residents and almost 150 students in attendance, but also from people who traveled to Rogers from across Central Texas and even as far as Houston.
Presidential Medal of Freedom Recipient - Robert Battle on Behalf of Alvin Ailey
Ailey was a choreographer, dancer, and the founder of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, which is renowned for its inspiring performances in 71 countries on 6 continents since 1958. Ailey’s work was groundbreaking in its exploration of the African American experience and the enrichment of the modern dance tradition, including his beloved American masterpiece Revelations.
Alvin Ailey was not just a dancer; many would call him a revolutionary. The creation of his company 56 years ago marked the start of a new era in dance, dedicated to the African-American experience.
Alvin Ailey, the revelatory dancer and choreographer who began life in Rogers, Texas, and died in Manhattan in 1989 at the age of 58, has been posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, by President Barack Obama.
One of the first choreographers to have a racially integrated dance company, Lester Horton (1906-1953) developed a series of movement exercises that have now been codified as the Horton technique.
Mary Lou Williams, the jazz pianist, arranger and composer, said that the first time she saw Alvin Ailey's work, "I went out of my mind, and I don't do that often."
For 20 years, Judith Jamison has not just tended the flame, but fueled the company so that it burns more brightly.