An immersive portrait of dance pioneer Alvin Ailey, told through his own words and a new dance inspired by his life.An immersive portrait of dance pioneer Alvin Ailey, told through his own words and a new dance inspired by his life.An immersive portrait of dance pioneer Alvin Ailey, told through his own words and a new dance inspired by his life.
Alvin Ailey was a trailblazing pioneer who found salvation through dance. "Ailey" traces the full contours of this brilliant and enigmatic man whose search for the truth in movement resulted in enduring choreography that centers on 'The Black American' experience with grace, strength, and unparalleled beauty. Told through Ailey's own words and featuring evocative archival footage and interviews with those who intimately knew him, the documentary weaves together a resonant biography of an elusive visionary.
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. 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 Ailey as he embarked on his professional career. After Horton's death in 1953, Ailey became director of 'The Lester Horton Dance Theater' and began to choreograph his own works. In the 1950s and 60s, Ailey performed in four 'Broadway' shows, including 'House Of Flowers'. On March 30, 1958, Alvin Ailey led a group of young 'African-American' modern dancers in a now-fabled performance at 'The 92nd Street' in New York City that forever changed 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' and his must-see signature work 'Revelations', which has been seen by more people around the world than any other work of modern dance since it's 1960 premiere.
Several works set to music by jazz greats such as Duke Ellington, Charlie 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'. He established 'The Alvin Ailey American Dance Center' (now 'The Ailey School') in 1969 and formed 'The Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble' in 1974. Throughout his lifetime, Ailey received numerous honors and awards, including several honorary doctoral degrees, a 1976 'NAACP Spingarn Award', and a 1982 'United Nations Peace Medal'. In 1988, he received 'The Kennedy Center Honor' in recognition of his extraordinary contribution to 'American' culture and achievement in the performing arts. Ailey was a pioneer of programs promoting arts in education, and the final program he launched before his passing on December 1, 1989. Before his untimely death in 1989, Ailey named Judith Jamison as his successor, and over the next 21 years, she brought 'The Company' to unprecedented success. Jamison, in turn, personally selected Robert Battle to succeed her in 2011. Robert Battle is without question the creative force of the future. Ailey 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.
This film is about Alvin Ailey, an artists, who tenaciously follow his own voice and in doing redefined his chosen forms. Ailey's dances, celebrations of 'African American' beauty and history, did more than move bodies; they opened minds. His dances were revolutionary social statements that staked a claim as powerful in his own time as in ours. 'Black' life is central to 'The American' story and deserves a central place in 'American' art and on the world stage. A working-class, gay, 'Black' man, he rose to prominence in a society that made every effort to exclude him. He transformed the world of dance and made space for those of us on the margins, space for black artists like Rennie Harris. Ailey was a pioneer in establishing a multi-racial repertory company that presented important works by both dance masters and emerging choreographers. 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. Through the remarkable artistry of 32 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. Using the universal language of dance as a medium for honoring the past, celebrating the present and fearlessly reaching into the future.
The documentary is inspired by.portraits like Tom Wolf's "Maria By Callas" and Raoul Peck's "I Am Not Your Negro", and by the poetic cinematic approaches of films such as Barry Jenkins "Moonlight" and Terrence Malick's "Days Of Heaven". The goal is to blend these influences into a sensorial, poetic documentary portrait. Nothing prepares you for the experience of Ailey, the emotional, spiritual, aural, and visual overwhelm the senses. 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.
Written by Gregory Mann.
- Jul 19, 2021