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HomeDaily Dose of HistoryDAILY DOSE OF HISTORY: Alvin Ailey - Dancer

DAILY DOSE OF HISTORY: Alvin Ailey – Dancer

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Alvin Ailey was born January 5, 1931, in Rogers, Texas. His mother was only a teenager when she gave birth to him. His father left shortly after learning that Alvin had been conceived. Ailey and his mother lived in the poor town of Navasota, Texas. He drew inspiration to survive from the Black church services he attended. At the age of 12, Alvin and his mother left for Los Angeles.

Los Angeles

While in Los Angeles, Ailey excelled in learning different languages and sports. After seeing the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo perform, he became inspired to dance. In 1949, he began learning modern dance from Lester Horton. The following year, he joined Horton’s dance company.


Just four years after joining Horton’s company, Ailey made his Broadway debut. He played in Truman Capote’s musical, House of Flowers. He later served as the lead dancer for the musical, Jamaica, starring Lena Horne and Ricardo Montalban in 1957. While living in New York, he was able to study dance with Martha Graham and acting with Stella Adler.
Alvin Ailey, Black artist, Black dancer, Black History, Black History 365, DDH: Daily Dose of History

Dance Company

In 1958, Ailey founded his own dance company, which he became most famous for. That same year, he starred in his original Blue Suite. He later starred in another original piece, titled Revelations. By 1960, the U.S. State Department sponsored an American tour. By the mid-1960s, he stopped performing but continued to choreograph projects.

Ailey School

In 1969, Ailey created his musical, Masakela Language. This production examined what it meant to be Black in South Africa during that time. That same year, he established the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center. His center is now called the Ailey School.


Over the span of his career, Ailey choreographed almost 80 ballets. In 1988, he was honored by the Kennedy Center for his work. The following year, he died. Alvin Ailey died December 1, 1989. He was 58 years old. It was originally reported that he died from dyscrasia, a terminal and rare blood disorder. It was revealed that he actually died from AIDS.
Alvin Ailey, Black artist, Black dancer, Black History, Black History 365, DDH: Daily Dose of History
**The views and actions of the DDH historical figures that are featured may not reflect the views and beliefs of Ramiro The Writer or We Buy Black. Thank you.**

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