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Theatre at 405 West 55th Street at Ninth Avenue

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AAADT) is a modern dance company based in New York City. It was founded in 1958 by choreographer and dancer Alvin Ailey. It is made up of 32 dancers, led by artistic director Robert Battle and associate artistic director Matthew Rushing.


Alvin Ailey and a group of young Black modern dancers first performed at New York's 92nd Street Young Men's Hebrew Association (92nd Street Y), under the name Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AAADT), in March 1958.[1] Ailey was the company's director, choreographer, and principal dancer. The company started as an ensemble of only seven dancers, plus their choreographer, and many guest choreographers.[2]

Following their first performance, which included Ailey's Blues Suite, the company traveled on what were known as the "station wagon tours"; in 1960, the AAADT became a resident company of the 51st Street YWCA's Clark Center for the Performing Arts.[3] During this period Ailey choreographed his famous work Revelations, a character dance done to traditional music. In 1962, Ailey changed his all-black dance company into a multi-racial group.[2] In that same year, the company was chosen to tour the Far East, Southeast Asia and Australia as part of President John F. Kennedy's "President's Special International Program for Cultural Presentations". AAADT was the first "Black" company to travel for Kennedy's program.[4]

In 1960, James Truitte joined the dance company, and later became an authority on Horton's technique. [5][6]

Judith Jamison, a star of the company for 15 years, joined the company in 1965.[7]

Ailey established a school in 1969, the same year that the company moved to the Brooklyn Academy of Music.[8] Both company and school relocated to 229 East 59th Street in Manhattan a year later, to a renovated church building.[9] In April of that year, a financial crisis caused Ailey to issue a statement that the dissolution of the company might take place.[10] The crisis abated, however, and in 1971 AAADT made its first performance at the New York City Center.[11]

AAADT, the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble (later renamed Ailey II), and the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center (later renamed The Ailey School) relocated in 1980 to four new studios in a building on Broadway. The company celebrated its 25th anniversary three years later.[12]

Alvin Ailey died on December 1, 1989; before his death he selected Judith Jamison to succeed him as artistic director,[12] and the entire Ailey organization moved to 211 West 61st Street on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. The Ailey School and nearby Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC), Fordham University, have since affiliated to offer a Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) degree program.[13]

Following tours in Russia, France and Cuba in the 1990s, as well as a residency in South Africa in 1997, the Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation announced in 2001 that a new dance complex was to be developed. Ground was broken on the building site in Manhattan the following year. The company and school moved into the building, named the Joan Weill Center for Dance, in 2004.[14]

The Alvin Ailey Dance Theater performs, Friday, February 10, 2023, in the State Dining Room of the White House.


The Ailey School is an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Dance (NASD). The school is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as an institution of higher education and is eligible to participate in Title IV programs.


Many people have contributed to the success of AAADT, but the work of Michael Kaiser, the executive director from 1990 to 1993, is often cited[15][16][17] as a model of successful nonprofit performing arts management.

Masazumi Chaya, who later served as associate artistic director for 28 years, first joined the company as a dancer in 1972.[18]

After 21 seasons (since 1989), Jamison personally selected Robert Battle to succeed her as Ailey's artistic director in 2011, and The New York Times declared he "has injected the company with new life."[19]

Troy Powell became artistic director of Ailey II in 2012, succeeding artistic director emerita Sylvia Waters, who ran the junior company for its first 38 years.[20] Powell was fired in 2020 after allegations of sexual misconduct involving students and other young dancers surfaced online.[21] Francesca Harper, daughter of former school director Denise Jefferson, was appointed director of Ailey II in 2021. [22]

Denise Jefferson was selected by Ailey to head the school when it was founded in 1984, and served as its director until her death in 2010.[23]

In 2010, The Ailey School hired Tracy Inman and Melanie Person to be the school’s co-directors.[24]

Performances and repertory

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has performed for an estimated 25 million people in 48 states, as well as 71 countries on six continents. Among these performances are included two South African residencies. The company has often been an ambassador for American culture, starting with President John F. Kennedy's Southeast Asia tour program. The troupe toured southeast Asia and Australia in 1962, and performed in the International Arts Festival in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 1963. They performed at the first World Festival of Negro Arts in Dakar, Senegal, in 1966. In 1968, AAADT performed at the Edinburgh Festival, earning awards for "best choreographer", and "best company". They were also awarded "best male dancer" at the International Dance Festival in Paris in 1970, the same year that they did a six-city tour of the USSR.[2] The company and its dancers and artistic staff have been recognized as cultural ambassadors numerous times, as in the 2001 awarding of the National Medal of Arts to both Judith Jamison and the Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation.[25] In 2008, the United States Congress passed a resolution officially designating the company a "vital American Cultural Ambassador to the World."[26][27][28]

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre performs legendary Alvin Ailey's Revelations in Miami's Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts.

Founder Alvin Ailey created more than 79 dances for his company during his tenure; he also maintained, however, that the company was not solely a repository for his choreography. Hence AAADT has a repertory of more than 235 works by more than 90 choreographers, including Ulysses Dove, Karole Armitage, George Faison, Uri Sands, Elisa Monte, Talley Beatty, Katherine Dunham, Donald Byrd, and Twyla Tharp (whose work The Golden Section, excerpted from her larger ballet, The Catherine Wheel, entered AAADT's repertory in 2006). The company's popularity comes from its theatrical, extroverted style of dancers with strong personalities and muscular skill. Yet the majority of AAADT's pieces have not held the stage for more than a few seasons, and comparatively few have managed to reach critical acclaim. However, the company keeps Alvin Ailey's works, including Revelations (1960), Night Creature (1974) and Cry (1971), in continuous performance. Memoria was one of Alvin Ailey's balletic pieces, with long lines and a clear technical style different from his usual jazz character style of swirling patters, strong, driving arm movements, huge jumps, and thrusting steps. This dance was later adopted into the repertory of the Royal Danish Ballet. Cry is a three-part, 17-minute solo created for Judith Jamison. It was meant to pay homage to "all Black women everywhere, especially our mothers" and can be seen as a journey from degradation to pride, defiance, and survival.[2] Cry has great physical and emotional demands on both performer and audience.[29][30][31][32]

Battle has expanded the company's repertory in significant ways, adding works by established choreographers such as Garth Fagan, Jiri Kylian, Wayne McGregor, Ohad Naharin and Paul Taylor, and commissioning new dances from contemporary choreographers including Kyle Abraham and Aszure Barton. In 2011, Battle also established a New Directions Choreography Lab to nurture emerging artists.[33]

See also


  1. ^ "Alvin Ailey Dance Company Comes to Dorothy Chandler". Glendale News-Press. 2006-02-10. Retrieved 2023-05-10.
  2. ^ a b c d "Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre: Origins to 1979", International Encyclopedia of Dance, vol. 1. Oxford University Press, New York: 1979. 54–57.
  3. ^ Armstrong, Jenice. "Jenice Armstrong: Alvin Ailey troupe's famed Judith Jamison reflects on its 'past, present and future'". inquirer. Retrieved 2023-05-09.
  4. ^ "Transforming Dance around the World". National Museum of African American History and Culture. Retrieved 2023-05-09.
  5. ^ Dunning, Jennifer (August 24, 1995). "James Truitte, 72, a dancer, teacher and historian, dies". New York Times.
  6. ^ "James Truitte". 1 November 2019. Retrieved 3 September 2022.
  7. ^ Institution, Smithsonian. "Judith Jamison: Dancer and Choreographer". Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 2023-05-09.
  8. ^ Rabinowitz, Chloe. "Alvin Ailey to Return to BAM for First Time in More Than a Decade With Two Programs". Retrieved 2023-05-10.
  9. ^ Jackson, Jonathan David; DeFrantz, Thomas F. (2005-07-01). "Dancing Revelations: Alvin Ailey's Embodiment of African American Culture". Dance Research Journal. 37 (1): 135. doi:10.2307/20444627. ISSN 0149-7677. JSTOR 20444627. S2CID 192083772.
  10. ^ Kisselgoff, Anna (1970-04-23). "City Ballet and Musicians Talk; Ailey May Disband His Troupe". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2023-05-10.
  11. ^ "CITY CENTER TO ADD AILEY DANCE SEASON". The New York Times. 1971-03-16. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2023-05-10.
  12. ^ a b Henderson, Danielle (11 April 2014). "Life Is a Celebration". The Stranger. Seattle, United States. Retrieved 13 April 2014.
  13. ^ "Partnerships and Affiliations | The Ailey School". Fordham University. Retrieved May 3, 2022.
  14. ^ Patton, Charlie. "As artist director prepares to pass the torch, Alvin Ailey dance theater comes to Jacksonville". The Florida Times-Union. Retrieved 2023-05-09.
  15. ^ Kaiser, Michael M. (2005). "Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Foundation". Artsmanager. Archived from the original on October 6, 2006. Retrieved December 30, 2006..
  16. ^ Kaiser, Michael (February 1, 2002), "Winter Council 2002 Keynote Address", DanceUSA. Archived December 10, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  17. ^ Auster, Bruce B. (March 2, 2003), "Turnaround Artist", U.S.News. Archived October 7, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  18. ^ "Alvin Ailey Honors Masazumi Chaya, Its Long-Standing Associate Artistic Director". Playbill.
  19. ^ Kourlas, Gia (June 13, 2013), "Dance Review: From Sex to Salvation, Not Without Introspection", The New York Times.
  20. ^ Kourlas, Gia (2012-04-17). "The Guide and Spirit of Ailey II Steps Down". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2023-05-09.
  21. ^ "Troy Powell, Artistic Director of Ailey II, Has Been Fired for Sexual Misconduct". The New York Observer. 20 July 2020.
  22. ^ Kourlas, Gia (September 2021). "Ailey II Names a New Artistic Director". The New York Times.
  23. ^ Fox, Margalit (July 20, 2010). "Denise Jefferson, 65, Director of the Ailey School, Is Dead", The New York Times. Retrieved July 21, 2010.
  25. ^ Lifetime Honors - National Medal of Arts Archived July 21, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  26. ^ Nadler, Jerrold (July 15, 2008). "H.Res.1088 - 110th Congress (2007-2008): Recognizing and commending the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater for 50 years of service as a vital American cultural ambassador to the world". Retrieved July 29, 2019.
  27. ^ Gillibrand, Kirsten E. (February 17, 2011). "S.Res.72 - 112th Congress (2011–2012): A resolution recognizing the artistic and cultural contributions of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and the 50th Anniversary of the first performance of Alvin Ailey's masterwork, 'Revelations'". Retrieved July 29, 2019.
  28. ^ Clinton, Hillary Rodham (September 23, 2008). "S.Res.490 - 110th Congress (2007–2008): A resolution recognizing the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater for 50 years of service to the performing arts". Retrieved July 29, 2019.
  29. ^ "A Teen Dancer Reflects on Seeing Alvin Ailey's Iconic 'Revelations' for the First Time". VOX ATL. 2023-03-14. Retrieved 2023-05-09.
  30. ^ "Night Creature - April 14 -28, 2021 - The Montrealer". Retrieved 2023-05-09.
  31. ^ Gladstone, Valerie (2000-11-26). "DANCE; The Long Shadow Of Ailey's Great 'Cry'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2023-05-09.
  32. ^ "Alvin Ailey dancers bring "Memoria" to Copenhagen". Reuters. 2009-09-15. Retrieved 2023-05-09.
  33. ^ Lee, Felicia R. (2011-05-12). "Ailey Awards New Choreography Fellowships". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2023-05-09.