“Dance is for everybody. I believe that the dance came from the people and that it should always be delivered back to the people.” -Alvin Ailey
Alvin Ailey was an African American choreographer and activist. He was born on January 5, 1931 in Rogers, Texas. Ailey was inspired by the black church services that he attended and the dance hall music he heard at local dance halls. He moved from Dallas to Los Angeles at the age of 12, where he proved to be a gifted student in several ways. With the inspiration of Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo performance, Ailey wanted to pursue dancing. In 1949, he started studying modern dance with Lester Horton and joined Horton’s dance company the following year.
Ailey made his Broadway debut in Truman Capote’s musical, House of Flowers, in 1954. He also appeared in The Carefree Tree, the following year. He was the lead dancer in the Broadway musical, Jamaica, in 1957. Ailey had a chance to study dance with Martha and acting with Stella Adler, in New York. His greatest fame was his dance company that was founded in 1958. During the same year her debuted, Blues Suite, which is a piece that drew from his southern roots. Another one of his early major works was Revelations, inspired from African American music of his youth.
In the 1960s, Ailey took his company on the road, and the tour was sponsored by the U.S State Department, which helped create his international reputation. In the mid-1960s, he stopped performing, but continued to choreograph several masterpieces. He also formed the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center, now known as the Ailey School, in 1969. During his long career, Ailey choreographed close to 80 ballets.
In 1988, Alvin Ailey was honored by the Kennedy Center for his contributions to the arts. This prestigious accolade came near the end of his life. Ailey died at the age of 58 on December 1, 1989, at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. Ailey continues to be an important figure in the arts through the ballets he created and the organizations he founded. The dancers with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater have performed for more than 20 million people around the world and countless others have seen their work through numerous television broadcasts.