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Alvin Ailey, Jr.

Ailey, Alvin, Jr. (āˈlē) [key], 1931–89, American modern dancer and choreographer, b. Rogers, Tex. Ailey studied in Los Angeles with Lester Horton, whose strong, dramatic style and views about multiracial casting influenced his choreography and artistic direction. He moved to New York in 1954, where he studied dance with Martha Graham and Charles Weidman and acting with Stella Adler. In 1958 he formed his own company, the American Dance Theater, which, multiracial since 1963, has been internationally acclaimed and has brought recognition to many African-American and Asian dancers. Typically, Ailey's work combines jazz, modern, and African dance elements.

In addition to Revelations (1960), which is generally viewed as his masterpiece, Ailey's best-known works include Blues Suite (1958), Creation of the World (1961), Roots of the Blues (1961), Hermit Songs (1962), Cry (1971), Hidden Rites (1973), Night Creature (1975), and At the Edge of the Precipice (1983). He also choreographed a series of ballets to music by Duke Ellington, notably The River (1970), and created works for other companies, including the American Ballet Theatre, the Joffrey Ballet, the Paris Opéra Ballet, and the La Scala Opera Ballet. After his death, Judith Jamison replaced him as artistic director of his company which, renamed the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, remains one of the country's most popular and respected dance troupes. In 2010 Robert Battle, a choreographer who long associated with the company, was named to succeed Jamison in 2011.

See his autobiography (with A. P. Bailey), Revelations (1995).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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