When Alvin Ailey stumbled into Lester Horton's dance theater at UCLA, he abandoned his original plan to major in foreign languages. Instead, he moved to fulfill his destiny and become one of the finest, most influential, and most beloved Modern choreographers... [more]
When Alvin Ailey stumbled into Lester Horton's dance theater at UCLA, he abandoned his original plan to major in foreign languages. Instead, he moved to fulfill his destiny and become one of the finest, most influential, and most beloved Modern choreographers of this century. Just one year after his 1953 debut in Horton's company, Ailey unleashed his creative genius in both the Hollywood film "Carmen Jones" and in his Broadway dance debut.
While performing in various musicals on and off Broadway, he trained with Modern dance divas Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, and Anna Sokolow. In 1958, he formed the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, a predominately black company whose impeccably constructed works of theatrical eloquence electrified audiences. He appropriated Horton's technique of incorporating ethnic and Modern movements in a distinctly Afro-Asian style, and blended it with influences from jazz, Dunham, Graham, and classical ballet.
Ailey's work not only celebrates American black experiences, it also pays homage to the abstract and plotless structuralism of his avant-garde training. Some ballets, such as "Streams," are marked by a lyric, classical austerity; the flowing processions of dancers surge and recede, invoking the currents of wind, tides, and history. In contrast, the dramatic narrative dances, such as the acclaimed "Cry," piece together images of bondage and freedom.
Ailey has been showered with honors, including the NAACP medal and the Capezio Award. Ailey's company is one of the most popular American dance companies, performing for more than 25 million people worldwide since its formation.