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Alvin Ailey


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(b Rogers, Tex., 5 Jan. 1931; d New York, 1 Dec. 1989)

US dancer, choreographer, and director. He studied in Los Angeles with Horton and later with Graham, Holm, and Weidman in New York, making his debut in Horton's company in 1950. In 1953, after Horton's death, he took over as director, then in 1954 went to New York to dance in the Broadway musical House of Flowers. In the same year he also appeared in the film Carmen Jones. A big, graceful dancer he gave his first New York concert in 1957 and in 1958 formed the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. In the company's first year he created Blues Suite, a work exploring the pain and anger of his own African-American heritage. It became one of his most popular works, defining his stylistic mix of modern, jazz, classical, and black dance as well as his unique ability to fuse powerful emotion with a flamboyant theatricality. In 1960 Ailey created the company's signature work Revelations, which was followed by numerous other works, including Masekela Language (mus. H. Masekela, 1969), Cry (a solo for Judith Jamison, mus. Alice Coltrane, 1971), and Night Creature (mus. Ellington, 1975) which has been taken into the repertoire of several other companies e.g. London Festival Ballet. He also choreographed works for the Robert Joffrey Ballet, including Feast of Ashes (mus. Carlos Surinach, 1962), and for American Ballet Theatre, including River (mus. Ellington, 1970), as well as for musical comedies and for Samuel Barber's opera Antony and Cleopatra (1966). Initially Ailey's company was perceived as an African-American ensemble but over the years it has recruited its dancers from a broad ethnic mix, and has become renowned for the highly individual personalities of its members. In 1969 its associate school was founded and in 1974 its youth company, Alvin Ailey II. From 1964 the company began touring extensively overseas. In 1972 it changed its name to Alvin Ailey City Center Dance Theater when it became resident in that venue but reverted to its original name in 1976. In 1979 both the company and school moved to the Minskoff building. After Ailey's death Judith Jamison took over as director, continuing his vision and his policies with marked success. In 2005 company and school moved into a purpose-built building in Manhattan, the Joan Weill Center for Dance, where it expanded its community and education projects. Under Jamison, Ailey's work continues to be key to the company's repertory, but it also features work by an eclectic range of other choreographers including Horton, McKayle, Talley Beatty, Lubovitch, Ulysses Dove, van Manen, Bill T. Jones, Jamison, Redha, Tharp, and Béjart.

http://www.alvinailey.org Website for the Ailey company

Subjects: Performing artsDance

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