Biography of Alvin Ailey

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Although blackness influenced much of Alvin Ailey’s work, he ultimately felt that the importance lay in the dancer rather than the race. Ailey told the New York Times, "I am trying to show the world that we are all human beings and that color is not important. What is important is the quality of our work." Alvin Ailey, an iconic American choreographer, was born on January 5, 1931, in Rogers, Texas. Being an African-American born in the South influenced much of Ailey’s later work. He grew up in the height of racial segregations, lynching, and violence. Ailey’s mother Lula Ailey had him at 17 years old, his father, Alvin, abandoned his family. The history and experiences Alvin Ailey had in the South drastically changed Ailey’s view of whiteness. He drew his inspirations from his church, his local dance hall, and the music he heard at these black gatherings. At age 12, Ailey’s family moved to Los Angeles to look for different job opportunities. There, Ailey’s interests took flight and he became involved in dance.
Ailey attended the Thomas Jefferson High School. His school friend in 1949, Carmen De Lavallade, introduced him to Lester Horton. Horton’s multi racial dance school covered a wide range of styles including modern, jazz, and classical ballet. After eventually leaving the college track, at the age of 22, Alvin joined the Horton Dance Company. Ailey participated in different art forms and Hollywood films at this time. Horton died in 1953 leaving Ailey the new artistic director of the company. Alvin eventually went on to found his own company in 1958, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. The company explains, “He established the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center (now The Ailey School) in 1969 and formed the Alvin Ailey Repert...

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