Photo by Normand Maxon
“I wanted to do the kind of dance that could be done for the man on the streets, the people. I wanted to show Black people that they could come down to these concert halls. That it was part of their culture being done there. And that it was universal.”
Alvin Ailey was born on January 5, 1931, in Rogers, Texas. His experiences of life in the rural South would later inspire some of his most memorable works. Lester Horton, the founder of one of the first racially integrated dance companies in the United States, became a mentor for Ailey as he embarked on his professional career. After Horton’s death in 1953, Ailey became director of the Lester Horton Dance Theater and began to choreograph his own works.
In 1958, he founded Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater to carry out his vision of a company dedicated to enriching the American modern dance heritage and preserving the uniqueness of the African American cultural experience. He established the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center (now The Ailey School) in 1969 and formed the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble (now Ailey II) in 1974.