Alvin Ailey

20th Century Choreographer

Alvin Ailey first dance with Horton Dance Company. At HDC Ailey learned various art forms. When Horton passed away in 1953 the company needed new works but no one to create them. Ailey stepped up to the plate and took on this huge role at the age of 22.

Ailey left Horton Dance Company and created his own company after viewing pieces from Graham, Limon, and Humphrey. He disliked all of their work because it was not similar to Hortons. The company began in 1958 and on March 30th of the same year the company had it's first inaugural performance.

Photographs taken from Ailey's signature piece, Revelations. Revelations tells the story of faith for African-Americans and the struggle from slavery to freedom of dances ranging from blues and spiritual music.

Revelations is now broken into three sections but Ailey's original plan was fifteen sections. As the work was better developed sections were removed from time to time. The three sections are, "Pilgrim of Sorrow", "Take Me to the Water", and "Move Members, Move"

Worked as a jazz conductor, he wouldn’t train them in a particular style. Mixing his choreography with their own personal talents. He wanted dancers with the body of a ballet dancer on bottom and modern dancer on top.

Ailey often used blues, jazz, and spiritual music in his choreography. He chose this type of music because it related to his Texas "blood roots" His pieces featured African-American men and women.

Ailey used turning, jumping, bending to get across large distances. He also contracted using forceful lines and expressive hand movements.

For the first two years of Ailey's dance career he kept it a secret from his mother. The great Alvin Ailey passed away on December 1 1989 of AIDS. He requested that doctors keep this a secret from media to spare his mother. The doctors told his mother that he passed from dyscrasia. He died at the age of 58 in Manhattan.

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