Alvin Alley Like many great dance choreographers, Alvin Ailey is one of the greatest and well known choreographers there is. I chose to to do my research on this man because i am very familiar with his name and know current dancers and choreographers who attend his dance school. Hearing about Ailey since i was twelve years old, i always wanted to know more about him but never took the initiative to do so. So here, in this biography i will explain to you what i have learned and researched about this famous dancer. Early Life In Alvin Alleys early life, he was born to his mother Lula Elizabeth Ailey, January 5, 931 in Rogers, Texas.
Lula was only seven-teen years old when Ailey was born. Growing up, Ailey was only surrounded by his mother, he was a boy who grew up without his father. His father’s name was also Alvin Ailey. Big Ailey left Little Ailey when Little Ailey was Just a baby; when he was less than one years old. Ailey and his mother lived during the time of the great depression, racial segregation, violence and lynchings against African-Americans. They were a African-American family of two who belonged to the poor social class. Because of this, they moved around very often nd his mother always had a hard time finding work.
At an early age, Ailey became suddenly afraid of the caucasian kind. At five years old, Ailey watched a group of white men rape his mother right in front of him. Ever since then, Ailey feared white people. According to DeFrantz, in the fall of 1942, Ailey’s mother, in common with many African Americans, migrated to Los Angeles, California, where she had heard there was lucrative work supporting the war effort. Ailey, aged 1 1, Joined his mother later by train, having stayed behind in Texas to finish out the school year.
There in California, Ailey’s first Junior high school was located in a primarily white school district. Being in a predominately white school, Ailey felt alone and out of place because of his continuing fear of whites. To tame her son’s fear of white people, Ailey’s mother moved Ailey into a predominately black Junior high school and then later toa predominantly black high school. He attended both George Washington Carver Junior High School and Thomas Jefferson High School. As said by Levin, “he sang spirituals in the glee club, wrote poetry, and demonstrated a talent for anguages” at these schools.
He also stated how Ailey “regularly attended shows at theLincoln Theater and Orpheum Theater. ” After graduating from high school in 1948, Ailey thought and considered becoming a teacher. He then attended the University of California in Los Angeles where he began studying romance languages. Why He Chose the Path he Chose According to unknown authors of About. com, it was Alleys school friend Carmen De Lavallade that introduced Ailey to the Lester Horton Dance company. The Lester Horton dance company was the first racially integrated dance company in this ountry.
I nougn Knowlng tnat tnls dance company was very Integrated ana Knowlng his fear against whites, he still considered taking the initiative to get to know what Horton’s dance company was about. He loved his studies of romance languages but being introduced to Horton’s company led Ailey to become more serious about his dancing overall. After a while, Ailey began to study full-time at Horton’s dance school. In 1953, is when he decided to officially Join Horton’s dance company. After training and taking continuing classes; learning his style of dance, Ailey began performing in many
Hollywood films. He appeared in “House of Flowers” by Truman Capote, “Sing, Man, Sing” in 1956, “Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright”, “Call Me By My Rightful Name, “The Carefree Tree”, etc. Like many of Horton’s students, Ailey studied many different types of art forms. This included acting, painting, music, costuming, and set design. He also studied ballet and other forms of ethnic and modern dance. Classes with Lester Horton is what embarked Ailey on his professional dance career. Without these classes, Ailey would have never thought of taking dance so serious.
He would ave never considered studying these different types of art forms. Also, according to PBS, Ailey kept his life as a dancer a secret from his mother for the first two years. No one knows why he made that decision to keep it away from his mother for so long. After Horton’s death in November of 1953, “the tragedy left the company without an artistic director” (About. com). Horton would prove to be Ailey’s major influence, becoming a mentor and giving him both a technique and a foundation with which to grow artistically. Coping with his death, Ailey decided to step up and take the role of a director.
Though he was young and lacked experience of being a director, he began choreographing, directing scene and costume designs, and running rehearsal and he also directed one of the shows for the company. According to Defrantz, Ailey was only twenty-two years old and had only choreographed once dance piece. It was in 1958, when Ailey decided to run his own company, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Ailey had a vision of “creating a company dedicated to the preservation and enrichment of the American modern dance heritage and the uniqueness of black cultural expression” (AlvinAiley. org).
The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater consisted a group of eight black dancers. One year later, the theater became the resident dance company at the Clark Center for the Performing Arts in New York City. According to Levin, by the mid-1960s Ailey, began struggling with his weight and gave up dancing in favor of choreography. At his theater, Ailey had began including people of different races his dance company. He employed Asian and white dancers. When I discovered this, it suprised me because after learning Ailey was a child who were scared of whites, I would’ve thought he would hire one.
I like hat he made his company diverse. By the late 1970’s, Ailey’s company was one of America’s most popular dance troupes. As said by Levin, they were the first modern dancers to visit the former Soviet Union since the 1920s. Ailey’s famous choreographed piece “Cry” gave an example of how he sends messages through his work. He dedicated his Cry piece to “all black women everywhere??”especially our mothers – the piece depicts the struggles of different generations of black American women” stated Ailey. Another example of his messages would be his dance piece to the late 1960s song, “Right On, Be Free.
Of tnls ana 0T all nls works Alley tola Jonn Gruen In I ne Prlvate world 0T Ba trying to express something that I feel about people, life, the human spirit, the beauty of things…. ” I like the fact that he wants to express spirits and feelings through dance movements. In 1989, Ailey died at the age of 58. “To spare his mother the social stigma of his death from AIDS, Ailey asked his doctor to announce that he had died of terminal blood dyscrasia” (About. com). Ailey received many awards for his works and a spot in Dance Magazine. He is a legend that will never be forgotten.