Alvin Ailey founded his own company in 1958 after being inspired to pursue dancing by seeing the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo perform.
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. Alvin Ailey later drew inspiration from the black church services he attended as well as the music he heard at the local dance hall.
During his long career, Ailey choreographed close to 80 ballets, while the dancers with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater have performed for more than 20 million people around the world. The Company travels on what Alvin Ailey called “the station wagon tours” in a vehicle driven by a longtime friend of the Company, Mickey Bord.
In 1962, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater was chosen to go on an extensive tour to the Far East, Southeast Asia and Australia as part of President John F. Kennedy’s progressive “President’s Special International Program for Cultural Presentations”. In 1968, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performed at the White House for President Johnson.
The company almost dissolved in 1970 due to lack of funding but managed to bounce back to performing at the opening night of Studio 54.
In 1972, Alvin Ailey was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts degree from Princeton University, the United Nations Peace Medal and New York City’s highest cultural honour, the Handel Medallion, among other awards.
In 1974, Ailey II was founded, embodying Ailey’s mission and merging the spirit and energy of the country’s best young dance talent with the passion and creative vision of today’s most outstanding emerging choreographers.
See Ailey II live at The Centre on October 21.