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Alvin Ailey American Dance theater


ALVIN AILEY AMERICAN DANCE THEATER, a modern ballet company that uses African American music and culture as the centerpiece of its performances, was founded by dancer and choreographer Alvin Ailey in 1958. The company is best known for the ballet Revelations, a stylized, elegant combination of ballet and modern dance set to the music of Negro spirituals.

Ailey spent his childhood in Texas and, at age eleven, moved to Los Angeles, where he discovered culture other than Saturday matinee cowboy movies. The black dancer Katherine Dunham especially impressed him. In Los Angeles, Ailey trained under and then danced and did choreography

for Lester Horton. At twenty-four, Ailey moved to New York City to join the cast of the Broadway play House of Flowers. He began to teach dance and to act in plays and films. After performances at the 92nd Street YMHA and the Jacob's Pillow Festival in Massachusetts, Ailey founded his own company, which included dancers Carmen de Lavallade and James Truitte. Other featured dancers who remained with the company for many years were Don Martin, Gary DeLoatch, and Donna Wood. Ailey's work includes the secular Blues Suite, set in a brothel; a tribute to jazz musician Charlie Parker, For Bird—With Love; and the heart-rending Cry, a solo celebrating black women and originally performed by Judith Jamison, who was named artistic director of the company upon Ailey's death in 1989.


Ailey, Alvin, with Peter A. Bailey. Revelations: The Autobiography of Alvin Ailey. Secaucus, N.J.: Birch Lane Press, 1995.

Dunning, Jennifer. Alvin Ailey: A Life in Dance. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1996.

Mosby, Rebekah Presson. Interview with Alvin Ailey. National Public Radio, 1988.

Rebekah PressonMosby

See alsoBallet ; Dance .

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