Alvin Ailey, African-American dancer and choreographer, is remembered by many as a modern dance genius. His spiritual and gospel background, along with his desire to enlighten and entertain, formed the backbone of his unique choreography.
Early Life of Alvin Ailey:
Alvin Ailey was born in Texas in 1931. His mother, then only 17 years old, was forced to care for him alone after his father abandoned the family early on. A single mom during the Great Depression, Ailey's mother struggled to find work. Like many African Americans, she migrated with her son to California. Ailey developed an interest in dance when a friend introduced him to the Hollywood studio of Lester Horton. Horton, who's school was the first multi-racial dance school in the United States, became a major influence to Ailey, providing him with both artistic technique and a solid dance foundation.
Dance Spirit of Alvin Ailey:
Not only did Alvin Ailey help to popularize modern dance, he also created a multiracial dance troupe at a time when modern dancers were mostly white. His many works focused on topics such as spirituality and despair, with themes particular to the black experience. In all, Ailey created 79 ballets during his lifetime. Alvin Ailey died in 1989 at the age of 58. In 1992, he was inducted into the National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame. Today, audiences continue to be entertained by Ailey's exceptional talent and versatility, through his famous works including Revelations and Cry.
The Alvin Ailey Dance Theater:
Founded in 1958, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has performed before millions of people throughout the world. The company's first performance, which included Ailey and a group of young black dancers, took place at New York's 92nd Street Young Men's Hebrew Association. Ailey's company was unique in that his dancers came to his company with training from a variety of schools, including ballet, modern, jazz and hip-hop. Today, the company continues to uphold Ailey's mission by presenting important works of the past and adding new ones to the repertoire.