Alvin Ailey is arguably one of the most renowned Black dance pioneers who lived. Ailey was a choreographer who Ailey achieved his greatest fame when he founded his own dance company the “Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater” in 1958. It is a hugely popular, multi-racial modern dance ensemble that popularized modern dance around the world thanks to extensive world tours. In 1954, Ailey made his Broadway debut in Truman Capote’s short-lived musical House of Flowers.
Ailey served as the lead dancer in another Broadway musical, Jamaica, starring Lena Horne and Ricardo Montalban in 1957. His most famous dance is Revelations, a celebratory study of religious spirit from memories of his youth. The blues, spirituals, and gospel songs all informed this dance piece. According to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater website, Revelations came from Ailey’s “‘blood memories’ of his childhood in rural Texas and the Baptist Church.”
During his long career, Ailey choreographed close to 80 ballets. In 1988, Ailey was honored by the Kennedy Center for his contributions to the arts. The dancers with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater have performed for more than 20 million people around the world and countless others have seen their work through numerous television broadcasts.