After a year of solo practices and virtual performances, dancers are back on stage doing what they do best: performing in front of live audiences. But for some of the field’s biggest and most transformative stars, choreographing the future of an art form steeped in tradition means leaving some things in the past.
The documentary "Ailey" tells the story of the late Alvin Ailey, who founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1958. Host Robin Young speaks with the film's director Jamila Wignot and Judith Jamison, a dancer and artistic director emerita of Alvin Ailey's company.
At the beginning of “Ailey” – the documentary about iconic choreographer Alvin Ailey, which opens in New York today – greatness recognizes greatness when Cicely Tyson calls him the “Pied Piper of modern dance” at his 1988 Kennedy Center Honors induction. And for this master of movement – who founded the internationally renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater company in New York in 1958 – it was all about brining black people to the traditionally white world of dance.
Too often, the idea of Alvin Ailey is reduced to a single dance: “Revelations.” His 1960 exploration of the Black experience remains a masterpiece, but it also overshadows the person who made it. How can an artist grow after such early success? Who was Alvin Ailey the man? In “Ailey,” the director Jamila Wignot layers images, video and – most important – voiceovers from Alvin Ailey to create a portrait that feels as poetic and nuanced as choreography itself.