Alvin Ailey

Born in Rogers, Texas on January 5, 1931, Alvin Ailey was introduced to dance by performances of the Katherine Dunham Dance Company and the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo.  His formal dance training began with an introduction to Lester Horton's classes by his friend, Carmen de Lavallade.
 
When Mr. Ailey began creating dances, he drew upon his "blood memories" of Texas, the blues, spirituals and gospel as inspiration, which resulted in the creation of his most popular and critically acclaimed work–Revelations. 
 
Although he created 79 ballets over his lifetime, Alvin Ailey maintained that his company was not exclusively a repository for his own work.  Today, the Company continues Mr. Ailey's mission by presenting important works of the past and commissioning new ones.  In all, more than 200 works by over 80 choreographers are part of the Ailey company’s repertoire.
 
Before his untimely death in 1989, Alvin Ailey asked Judith Jamison to become Artistic Director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.  Remaining committed to furthering Alvin Ailey’s legacy, she has brought the Company to unprecedented success. Ms. Jamison wrote in her autobiography, Dancing Spirit, “I hope I'm a continuation of Alvin's vision.  He has left me a road map.  It's very clear.  It works.
 
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater grew from the now-fabled performance in March 1958 at the 92nd Street Y in New York.  Led by Alvin Ailey and a group of young African-American modern dancers, that performance changed forever the perception of American dance.  The Ailey company has gone on to perform for an estimated 23 million people in 48 states and in 71 countries on six continents, including two historic residencies in South Africa.  In 2008, the U.S. Congress designated the Company as “a vital American cultural ambassador to the world,” promoting the uniqueness of the African-American cultural experience and the preservation and enrichment of the American modern dance heritage.

Featured News Releases

Portrait Of Ailey, A New Eight-Part Documentary Series Available For Free On PBS LearningMedia

NEW YORK – February 29, 2024 – The compelling story of the life, work, and legacy of dancer and choreographer Alvin Ailey, founder of the renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, is the subject of Portrait of Ailey, a new eight-part documentary series premiering in February 2024, during Black History Month, and rolling out through September on PBS LearningMedia, a free website with thousands of classroom-ready resources for preK-12 teachers. The series was created by Sylvia Waters, director emerita of the Ailey II company, with archivist Dominique Singer and adapted for use on PBS LearningMedia by The WNET Group’s Kids’ Media & Education team. Portrait of Ailey uses rare historical film and still images as well as contemporary footage to create a sweeping narrative of Mr. Ailey as a performer, choreographer, celebrity, teacher, social activist, arts advocate, and creator of an enduring institution that is currently celebrating its 65th anniversary.

Ailey Documentary Opens In Movie Theaters Nationwide On Friday, August 6 After “Must-See” Acclaim From Sundance And Tribeca Film Festival Showings

New York, NY – August 3, 2021 – Director Jamila Wignot’s powerful AILEY documentary, a resonant biography of trailblazing visionary Alvin Ailey, opens in movie theaters nationwide on Friday, August 6. Heralded as a must-see at the Sundance Film Festival and a Tribeca Film Festival critics pick, the film is told through Ailey’s own words, along with interviews with those close to him, and features evocative archival footage and rarely seen historic performances. The official trailer here previews the film acclaimed as “extraordinarily moving” and “a movie that pulses with joyful expressiveness” that “hauntingly evokes Alvin Ailey’s majesty.”

Ailey All Access Premieres Jamar Roberts' Members Don't Get Weary On April 28 Set To The Legendary John Coltrane's Music During Jazz Appreciation Month

New York, NY – April 23, 2021 – The Ailey organization continues to honor its founder who taught the important lesson of “holding a mirror to society so that people can see how beautiful they are,” by offering Ailey All Access, a free online initiative that illuminates the human spirit and sparks change. Since March 30, the streaming series has reached millions across the globe with free performance broadcasts of full length works from the repertory, Ailey Extension dance and fitness classes, and more.

Featured Press Coverage

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Thirteen - Connecting Dancer Alvin Ailey’s Life Story With Classrooms

Acclaimed choreographer Alvin Ailey infused his life story and Black cultural roots into his modern dance works, which have been enjoyed by millions since he first founded Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1958 in New York City. Early dances such as Revelations remain favorites in the company repertory today, but many people don’t know the background of the artist, who died in 1989.

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Essence - Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Partners With Google Arts & Culture To Celebrate Black History Month

Since its inception, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has become a staple in popular culture, while using the art of modern dance to unite people from all walks of life. In celebration of its 65th season, the company has partnered with Google Arts & Culture to highlight the life and impact of Alvin Ailey, his iconic dance company and its major contributors, and more.