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Alvin Ailey

Founder of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Alvin nurtured black artists and was the pioneer of programs that promoted arts in education, particularly benefiting underserved communities.


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Alvin Ailey Bio

Our shade ‘Ailey’ is respectfully named after American director, choreographer and activist Alvin Ailey (January 5, 1931 – December 1, 1989).

Ailey proved to be a gifted student as he excelled at languages and athletics. It was after seeing the performance from Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo that Ailey became inspired to pursue dancing.

Ailey founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AADT) in 1958, presenting his vision to honour Black culture through dance. AADT was (and still is) a hugely popular, multi-racial modern dance ensemble that popularized modern dance around the world, and performed on extensive world tours.

Ailey was honoured by the Kennedy Center for his contributions to the arts in 1988. Unfortunately, this prestigious accolade came near the end of his life. Ailey died at the age of 58 at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. At the time, The New York Times reported that he had suffered from “terminal blood dyscrasia, a rare disorder that affects the bone marrow and red blood cells.” It was later revealed that Ailey had died of AIDS.

Listen to a 42 minute excerpt of Ailey speaking at the University of California, LA in 1983 at: Alvin Ailey speaking at UCLA 3/9/1983 – YouTube

From The New Yorker, find out some more about Ailey and the AADT at: Alvin Ailey and The Importance of the Arts | The New Yorker – YouTube

You can also find the more recent documentary ‘Alvin Ailey: A Legend of American Dance’ on BBC iPlayer: BBC iPlayer – Alvin Ailey: A Legend of American Dance

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