In 1960, with his fledgling company only two years old, choreographer Alvin Ailey premiered Revelations, a series of kinetic, soaring dances set to African-American spirituals. Drawing on the modernist techniques of Martha Graham and Ailey’s mentor, Lester Horton, the work was entirely new: a dance about the Black experience that audiences around the globe could love. “Alvin Ailey is Black, and he’s universal,” said actor Cicely Tyson during a tribute to Ailey at the Kennedy Center in 1988. It’s “the very spirit that has made him a Pied Piper of modern dance.”
As the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has grown, shrunk, and eventually been institutionalized in the firmament of American culture, Ailey’s name is closer to a brand than that of a person. The original company is the resident at New York City Center and has performed in more than 70 countries; Ailey II, a younger dance ensemble, was founded in 1974; the Ailey School provides professional dance training, and Ailey Extension offers dance and fitness classes to the general public. (Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg Businessweek, is a supporter of the AAADT.)
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