Alvin Ailey

1931- 1989

Dancer and Choreographer


Ralph Abernathy

Alvin Ailey was born on January 5, 1931, in Rodger Texas. His father left the family when he was six months old. When he was eleven he and his mother moved to Los Angles. Ailey attended Thomas Jefferson High School. While in school he was introduced by a friend to the dance studio of Lester Horton. There he learned many different types of dance. The school was the first multiracial dance school in the United States. When Horton died suddenly Ailey stepped forward at the age of 22 becoming the temporary artistic director so the school could fulfill its standing contracts. Ailey moved to New York where he appeared in a number of Broadway plays. Ailey founded his own company in 1958 and quickly became famous as a unique voice for the black community. His choreography was known for its intriguing blend of ballet, jazz, modern, and Afro-Caribbean dance. In 1988, Ailey was the recipient of one of the Kennedy Center Honors, in appreciation for a lifetime of achievement and contribution to the world of modern dance.