Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
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For 65 years Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has showcased the work of diverse choreographers, amplifying a multitude of voices alongside Mr. Ailey’s own. During this milestone anniversary season, America’s most popular modern dance company returns to Carolina with a plan to expand on that tradition. On this visit, the long-time CPA partner will introduce new choreographers to the repertory, pairing their work with Ailey classics that illustrate the immense range of Mr. Ailey’s rich catalog.
Tickets available from $41.93. $10 UNC-Chapel Hill student tickets available with valid UNC One Card. Additional discounts available. Limits apply. Visit our FAQ page for details.
- Runtime: TBD
- Intermission: TBD
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Robert Battle: Artistic Director
Matthew Rushing: Associate Artistic Director
ABOUT THE COMPANY
On March 30, 1958, Alvin Ailey led a group of young African-American modern dancers in a now-fabled performance at the 92nd Street Y in New York City that forever changed the perception of American dance. Mr. Ailey was a pioneer in establishing a multi-racial repertory company that presented important works by both dance masters and emerging choreographers. Regarded as one of the world’s premiere dance companies, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is a recipient of the National Medal of Arts and is recognized by a U.S. Congressional resolution as a vital American “Cultural Ambassador to the World.” Having performed in 71 countries on 6 continents for an estimated 25 million people worldwide—as well as millions more through television broadcasts, film screenings, and online platforms—Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater continues to inspire and unite people of all backgrounds around the globe.
Before his untimely death in 1989, Mr. Ailey named Judith Jamison as his successor, and over the next 21 years, she brought the Company to unprecedented success. Ms. Jamison, in turn, personally selected Robert Battle to succeed her in 2011. In announcing his appointment, she stated, “Combining an intimate knowledge of the Ailey company with an independent perspective, Robert Battle is without question the creative force of the future.” Through the remarkable artistry of extraordinary dancers, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater continues to celebrate the African-American cultural experience and to preserve and enrich the American modern dance tradition. With a repertory of over 235 works by more than 90 choreographers and a permanent home at The Joan Weill Center for Dance in New York City—the largest building dedicated to dance in New York City, the dance capital of the world—the Ailey legacy flourishes, using the universal language of dance as a medium for honoring the past, celebrating the present and fearlessly reaching into the future.
ABOUT ALVIN AILEY
Alvin Ailey was born on January 5, 1931, in Rogers, Texas. His experiences of life in the rural South would later inspire some of his most memorable works. Mr. Ailey was introduced to dance in Los Angeles by performances of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and the Katherine Dunham Dance Company, and his formal dance training began with an introduction to Lester Horton’s classes by his friend Carmen de Lavallade. Horton, the founder of one of the first racially- integrated dance companies in the United States, became a mentor for Mr. Ailey as he embarked on his professional career. After Horton’s death in 1953, Mr. Ailey became director of the Lester Horton Dance Theater and began to choreograph his own works. In the 1950s and 60s, Mr. Ailey performed in four Broadway shows, including House of Flowers and Jamaica.
In 1958, he led a group of young black modern dancers in a performance in New York City that changed forever the perception of American dance. Since then, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater—a company dedicated to enriching the American modern dance heritage and preserving the uniqueness of the African-American cultural experience—has gone on to perform for an estimated 25 million people in 71 countries on six continents. He created 79 ballets in his lifetime—including his first masterpiece, 1958’s Blues Suite; his must-see signature work Revelations, which has been seen by more people around the world than any other work of modern, dance since its 1960 premiere; the acclaimed tour-de-force female solo created for his mother in 1971, Cry; and several works set to music by jazz greats such as Duke Ellington, Charlie “Bird” Parker, and Hugh Masekela—but maintained that his company was not exclusively a repository for his own work. His ballets have appeared in the repertories of major dance companies around the world, including American Ballet Theatre; The Joffrey Ballet; Dance Theatre of Harlem; Paris Opera Ballet; and La Scala Ballet, and he choreographed operas for the openings of such esteemed institutions as The Metropolitan Opera House (Samuel Barber’s Antony and Cleopatra in 1966) and The Kennedy Center (Leonard Bernstein’s Mass in 1971).
He established the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center (now The Ailey School) in 1969 and formed the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble (now Ailey II) in 1974. Mr. Ailey was a pioneer of programs promoting arts in education, and the final program he launched before his passing in 1989 was AileyCamp—a full-scholarship summer day camp for young people ages 11–14 in underserved communities, now in 10 cities nationwide.
Throughout his lifetime, Alvin Ailey received numerous honors and awards, including several honorary doctoral degrees, a 1976 NAACP Spingarn Award, and a 1982 United Nations Peace Medal. From the dance world, he received the 1975 Dance Magazine Award, the 1979 Capezio Award and modern dance’s most prestigious prize—the Samuel H. Scripps American Dance Festival Award—in 1987. In 1988, he received the Kennedy Center Honor in recognition of his extraordinary contribution to American culture and achievement in the performing arts. He was posthumously awarded the 2014 Presidential Medal of Freedom—the country’s highest civilian honor—in recognition of his contributions and commitment to civil rights and dance in America, as well as the 2017 Logo Trailblazer Honor, celebrating him as a leader at the forefront of LGBTQ equality. He was also the subject of Alvin Ailey: A Life in Dance, Jennifer Dunning’s moving 1998 biography.
When Mr. Ailey died on December 1, 1989, The New York Times said of him, “you didn’t need to have known [him] personally to have been touched by his humanity, enthusiasm, and exuberance and his courageous stand for multi-racial brotherhood.”
ARTISTS ARE ATHLETES / ATHLETES ARE ARTISTS
CPA recently partnered with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and UNC Men’s Basketball to launch a new collaborative initiative: “Artists Are Athletes / Athletes Are Artists.” This campaign celebrates the combination of athletic and artistic prowess found on Carolina’s campus and across the globe. For a closer look, check out the video below, featuring Ailey’s own Michael Jackson, Jr.
Featured image provided by Paul Kolnik. Other related images provided by Dario Calmese.