Born in Rogers, Texas on January 5, 1931, Alvin Ailey was introduced to dance by performances of the Katherine Dunham Dance Company and the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. His formal dance training began with an introduction to Lester Horton's classes by his friend, Carmen de Lavallade.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater grew from a now fabled performance of March, 1958, at the 92nd Street Young Men's Hebrew Association in New York. Led by Alvin Ailey and a group of young black modern dancers, that performance changed forever the perception of American dance. The Ailey company has gone on to perform for an estimated 21 million people in 48 states and in 71 countries on six continents, including two historic residencies in South Africa. The Company has earned a reputation as one of the most acclaimed international ambassadors of American culture, promoting the uniqueness of African-American cultural expression and the preservation and enrichment of the American modern dance heritage.
When Mr. Ailey began creating dance, he drew upon his "blood memories" of Texas, the blues, spirituals and gospel as inspiration, which resulted in the creation of his most popular and critically acclaimed work, Revelations.
Although he created 79 ballets over his lifetime, Alvin Ailey maintained that his company was not exclusively a repository for his own work. Today, the company continues Mr. Ailey's mission by presenting important works of the past and commissioning new ones to add to the repertoire. In all, more than 170 works by over 65 choreographers have been performed by The Ailey company.
In 1989, after the death of Alvin Ailey, Judith Jamison was appointed Artistic Director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Ms. Jamison wrote in her autobiography, Dancing Spirit, "I hope I'm a continuation of Alvin's vision. He has left me a road map. It's very clear. It works."