Born in Rogers, Tex. Ailey studied in Los Angeles with Lester Horton, whose strong, dramatic style influenced his choreography. 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 has been internationally acclaimed and has brought recognition to many African-American and Asian dancers. His work combines jazz, modern, and African dance elements. His best-known works include Blue Swan (1958), Creation of the World (1961), Roots of the Blues (1961), Revelations (1960), Hermit Songs (1962), 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 and created works for other companies, including the American Ballet Theatre, the Joffrey Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, and the La Scala Opera Ballet. After his death Judith Jamison replaced him as artistic director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, which remains highly popular and respected.
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