Alvin Ailey's Influence on Modern Dance
Alvin Ailey never considered dancing as his career. He had always been enthralled by the lights, costumes, and dancers flowing with the music, but it never occurred to him that he would be creating such spectacles. He went to see many shows when he was younger, mostly ballet and musical theater. Acceptance for modern dance had not yet been established during the 1940's, when Ailey was in his childhood, and he would become one of its most major influences. Alvin Ailey helped modern dance become accepted by bringing his roots into his dances, opening his own studio, and giving African Americans equal opportunities. Ailey grew up drifting all over Texas with his mother (Ford 73-74). He could never forget the joyful music he had always heard in church as a young boy (Probosz 13). The songs Ailey heard in church were always sung in rejoice, despite the hard times and lack of respect for African Americans. Revelations, Ailey's first major work, would incorporate all the emotions of the gospel and spiritual songs of his life (Probosz 32). Just as classic ballets tell a story, his modern ballets would tell the story of African American life. Each song in the series reminded him of a different part of his background, whether it be people singing in the streets, his mother humming tunes around the house, or songs he would sing with his high school glee club (Ailey 101). The songs represented a truth that Ailey wanted to project about the black image (Ailey 101). He wanted his audiences to feel that same truth, and respect it, when they saw his memories performed to the black rhythm (Ailey 101). The dancing techniques used in Revelations and all other Ailey works, were influenced by Ailey's mentor and friend, Lester Horton (Lewis-Ferguson 13). Horton always told his students that they must "communicate well through movement, that they have the strength and endurance, and that they use the full range of space, tempo, rhythm, and...
Cited: Ailey, Alvin . Revelations. New York : Carol Publishing Group, 1995.
Ford, Carin T. Legends of American Dance and Choreography. Berkeley Heights : Enslow
Publishers, Inc, 2000.
Lewis-Ferguson, Julinda. Alvin Ailey, Jr.; A Life in Dance. New York : Walker and Company,
Probosz, Kathryn Solomon. Alvin Ailey Jr. New York : A Bantam Skylark Book 1991
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