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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater & My Mother Turn 50

Posted by Amoebite, March 13, 2009 01:28pm | Post a Comment
The two most important things in my life have always been, and will always be, the gift of movement and my relationship with my mother. I started dancing 23 years ago at a small studio in Albuquerque, NM. My grandmother worked at the local telephone company and, as fate would have it, the nearest day care center was not actually a day care center, but instead a dance studio. The rest, as they say, is history.
Ailey Dancer
Dance has shaped and moved my life in such a way that it has become my artistic expression, my creative outlet, and my identity. I’ve always known that dance would remain a huge part of my life regardless of what I chose to do with it professionally. My mother has always supported my decision to be deeply involved in the arts, as well as anything else I’ve put my mind to.

Growing up in Albuquerque, there wasn’t much room for diversity in the dance world. Often I was left feeling like the odd one out because of my body type and ethnicity. I was told I was too muscular to become a dancer during my formative years but, because of my mother’s unwavering faith in me, I continued to pursue my dream as a dancer, regardless of what others tried to tell me.

It wasn’t until I was 13 that I became familiar with the New York modern-based dance company, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. For the first time, I felt enlightened seeing a group of 30 dancers, with all different body typesAiley Dancers and ethnicities, coming together to share their gift of movement. It was like a breath of fresh air and validated my existence in the dance world. They gave me faith and because of them, I realized that my hopes for becoming a professional dancer were not merely dreams and out-of-reach goals, but were there for the taking.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater was founded in New York, NY in 1958 by activist / dancer / choreographer Alvin Ailey. The company is modern dance-based and consists of 30 extremely, beautifully diverse and amazingly talented, strong dancers, as well as artistic director Judith Jamison and associate artistic director Masazumi Chaya.

The company first showcased their work in New York at New York’s 92nd Street Young Men’s Hebrew Association. They did a number of “station wagon tours” throughout 1960 and then became a resident company of the 51st Street YWCA’s Clark Center for the Performing Arts. It was during this time that Alvin Ailey choreographed one of the many pieces that he would forever be remembered for, Revelations, a piece that signifies places of deep grief and the joy of the soul. In 1962 the company was selected to be a part of President John F. Kennedy’s “President’s Special International Program for Cultural Presentations.” As a dancer, words have never been my first choice for expression. Being referred to as a “cultural ambassadorAiley Dancers to the world” in any respect is not to be taken lightly, especially for a dance company.

In 1969, Ailey established a school which has gone through a series of relocations over the years. Alvin Ailey himself passed in 1989 and the legendary Judith Jameson assumed the role of Artistic Director for the company. (Her poster remained on my wall throughout my childhood, until I moved to Los Angeles to pursue my dreams of becoming a professional dancer.) When Jameson became the company’s artistic director, the company moved to the upper west side of Manhattan. Today, the company and school reside at the Joan Weill Center for Dance in Manhattan.

Since its creation, AADT has performed for an estimated 21 million people in 48 states, as well as 71 countries on six different continents. They have received multiple awards, including a 2002 award for the National Medal of Arts to both Judith Jamison and the Alvin Ailey Foundation.

2009 is a year of change and hope for America. We’ve made history by electing our first African American President, a man who coined the phrase “Yes We Can” and allowed us to once again embrace hope and not be afraid of change. 2009 is also the year my mother turns 50, which for her, I know, is a huge deal. 2009 also marks the 50th year anniversary for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Coincidence? I don’t know. But I do know this: If it wasn’t for the guidance of my mother and the showmanship of Ailey, I’m not sure if I would have become the artist I am today.

AAADT is showcasing their 50th anniversary in Los Angeles at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion March 18 - 22. The company will perform a series of different repertories, including the much anticipated Go in Grace which features a score composed by Sweet Honey in the Rock (who is performing live on opening night only) and the historical piece Revelations. Each performance will also feature a short film, A Golden Anniversary Celebration, commemorating their 50 year history. This is clearly not an opportunity to be missed.

Alvin Ailey - Cultural Ambassador

I would like to congratulate the company on its 50th anniversary and say happy birthday to my mother for her 50th birthday. I have both of them to thank for allowing me, and, in Ailey's case, I’m sure many other diverse artists, to realize that as long as you have a dream, anything is possible.

“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

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