Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater was founded in 1958 by one of the greatest dancers and choreographers, Alvin Ailey. Starting with a handful of dancers, Ailey led his team for their performance at the Young Men’s Hebrew Association, New York. Emerging as one of the strongest all-Black men ensemble, the company toured around the country. In 1960, Ailey and his team became the resident performers at the Clark Center for the Performing Arts. This marked the start of a wonderful journey that continues to date.
In 1962, Ailey increased the number of dancers and pushed the label of ‘all-Black’ company by including dancers from various races and ethnicities. During the period, he crafted one of his most acclaimed works, Revelations. One of the principal dancers and future Artistic Director of the company, Judith Jamison joined the group in 1965. Ailey founded a dance school in 1969 and introduced the dance education besides continuous performing around the country and abroad.
In 1971, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater made its debut at their future home, New York City Center. The Associate Artistic Director of the company, Masazumi Chaya joined in 1972. The group performed in a variety of cities around the world and boosted its image.
Alvin Ailey died in 1989 and Judith Jamison succeeded as the new Artistic Director of the company. Her decades of experiences and emotional attachment with the group steered it towards the new paths of success. The company embarked on various tours to African and Asian continents and was named as the ‘American cultural ambassador’. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater tickets witnessed escalating sales and made the group an international dance sensation.
Throughout the 90s, Jamison managed the school and the company with her charismatic leadership. She also reinvented the company’s performing catalog and introduced many contemporary dance forms with the help of other choreographers. She passed away in 2010 after serving the company for 21 years. After her death, Robert Battle took over as the Artistic Director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. With his fresh approach and profound artistic vision, Battle continues to lead the company towards new avenues of success and acclaim.
The Classic Repertoire
Besides the classic dance routines that Ailey himself choreographed, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s vast repertoire includes forms such as ballet, contemporary, jazz and many others. Some of the regular sequences that the group performs include Ailey’s famous Revelations, Cry, Memoria and Night Creature. Revelations is a beautiful combination of Ailey’s deep influences of gospel, theater and blues.
Cry, originally created for Judith Jamison, is an effective piece that combines bits of strong chorography, dramatic postures and extended body movements. Memoria, on the other hand is a nimble balletic routine that is different from Ailey’s signature swirling jazz patterns and high jumps. In addition to these classics, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performs a variety of other dance styles that resonate with the modern audiences.
Continuing their shining history of live shows and performances, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will be hitting various cities as part of their recent North American Tour. The group’s ability to beautifully execute complex sequences enables them to give an intimate live experience to the attendees. Attend one of their shows and enjoy their gorgeous dance routines!