Alvin Ailey's Life

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Ailey was born in Rogers, Texas

05/01/1931

Ailey was born to his 17-year-old mother, Lula Elizabeth Ailey

Ailey's father left

05/06/1931

Ailey’s father abandoned the family when he was six months old

Ailey's mother was raped by a group of white men

1936

When Ailey was 5, his 22-year-old mother was raped by a group of white men, leaving him afraid of whites

Ailey's mother migrated to Los Angeles, California

1942

In the fall of 1942, Ailey’s mother, in common with many African Americans, migrated to Los Angeles, California, where she had heard there was lucrative work supporting the war effort.

Ailey moved to Los Angeles, California to be with his mother

1942

Ailey joined his mother later by train, having stayed behind in Texas to finish out the school year

He was invited to New York to dance in House of Flowers by Truman Capote

1945

In 1945, Ailey and his friend – Carmen De Lavallade – were invited to New York to dance in the Broadway show, House of Flowers by Truman Capote

Ailey became serious about dance

1949

Ailey did not become serious about dance until in 1949 when his school friend Carmen De Lavellade introduced him to the Hollywood studio of Lester Horton

Ailey was introduced to the Hollywood studio of Lester Horton

1949

Ailey was introduced to the Hollywood studio of Lester Horton by his school friend Carmen De Lavallade.

Ailey moved to San Francisco to continue his studies

1951

Ailey began choreographing

1953

Despite his youth and lack of experience (Ailey was only twenty-two and had choreographed only one dance in a workshop) he began choreographing, directing scene and costume designs and running rehearsals

Ailey became the artistic director of Lester Horton's studios

1953

Ailey's first choreographed piece was a tribute to Horton

1953

Lester Horton Died

1953

Ailey made his debut in Horton's Revue Le Bal Caribe

1953

Ailey joined Horton's company

1953

Ailey performed as a Dancer and Actor in The Carefree Tree

1955

Ailey appeared in Sing, Man, Sing

1956

Ailey performed as a dancer and an actor in Show Boat

1957

Ailey appeared in the Broadway show Jamaica

1957

Ailey choreographed Cinco Latinos

1958

Cinco Latinos, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Kaufmann Concert Hall, New York City, 1958

Ailey choreographed Blues Suite

1958

Blues Suite, Alivin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Kaufmann Concert Hall, 1958

Ailey formed the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre

1958

Ailey choreographed Knoxville: Summer of 1915

1960

Knoxville: Summer of 1915, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Clark Center, 1960

Ailey choreographed Three for Now

1960

Three for Now, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Clark Center, New York City, 1960

Ailey created his signature work, Revelations

1960

For his signature work, Revelations, Ailey drew upon his “blood memories” of Texas, the blues, spirituals and gospel

Ailey choreographed Roots of the Blues with Carmen De Lavallade

1961

(With Carmen De Lavallade) Roots of the Blues, Lewisogn Stadium, New York City, 1961

US State Department sponsored the Alvin Ailey Dance Companys first overseas tour

1962

Ailey choreographed Hermit Songs

1963

Hermit Songs, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. 1963

Ailey choreographed Ariadne

1965

Ariadne, Harkness Ballet, Opera Comique, Paris, 1965

Ailey choreographed Macumba

1966

Macumba, Harkness Ballet, Gran Teatro del Liceo, Barcelona, Spain 1966, then produced as Yemanja, Chicago Opera House 1967

Ailey choreographed Quintet

1968

Quintet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Church Hill Theatre, Edinburgh Festival, Scotland, 1968, then Billy Rose Theatre, New York City 1969

Ailey choreographed Masekela Language

1969

Masekela Language, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, American Dance Festival, New London, Connecticut, 1969, then Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York City, 1969

Ailey choreographed Streams

1970

Streams, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Brooklyn Academy of Music, 1970

Ailey choreographed Gymnopedies

1970

Gymnopedies, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, Brooklyn Academy of Music, 1970

Ailey was honored by a commission to create The River for ABT

1970

Ailey choreographed Mary Lou's Mass

1971

Mary Lou’s Mass, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, New York City Center, 1971. This dance was dedicated to Ailey’s mother and all black women alike

Ailey choreographed Mingus Dances

1971

Robert Joffrey Company, New York City Center, 1971

Ailey choreographed Flowers

1971

Flowers, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, ANTA Theatre, 1971

Ailey choreographed Archipelago

1971

Ailey choreographed Myth

1971

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, New York City Center, 1971

Ailey choreographed Cry

1971

Cry, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, New York City Center, 1971

Ailey choreographed Choral Dances

1971

Choral Dances, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, New York City Center, 1971

Ailey choreographed Sea Change

1972

Sea Change, American Ballet Theatre, Kennedy Center Opera House, Washington, D.C. 1972, then New York City Center, 1973

Ailey choreographed The Lark Ascending

1972

The Lark Ascending, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, New York City Center, 1972

Ailey choreographed Shaken Angels

1972

Shaken Angels, 10th New York Dance Festival, Delacorte Theatre, New York City, 1972

Ailey choreographed Love Songs

1972

Love Songs, Alvin Ailey City Center Dance Theatre, Kennedy Center Opera House, Washington, D.C. 1972, then New York City Center, 1973

Ailey choreographed Song for You

1972

Song for You, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, New York City Center, 1972

Ailey choreographed Hidden Rites

1973

Hidden Rites, Alvin Ailey City Center Dance Theatre, New York City Center, 1973

Ailey choreographed Night Creature

1975

Ailey choreographed The Mooche

1975

Ailey choreographed Pas de "Duke"

1976

Ailey was awarded the Spingarn Medal from the NAACP

1977

Ailey choreographed Memoria

1979

Ailey choreographed Phases

1980

Ailey choreographed Landscape

1981

Ailey received the Kennedy Center Honors

1988

Ailey's death

01/12/1989

Ailey died on December 1st, 1989 at the age of 58. To spare his mother the social stigma of his death from AIDS, he asked his doctor to announce that he had died of terminal blood dyscrasia

Ailey was inducted into the National Museum of Dance's Mr & Mrs.

1992

Ailey was inducted into the National Museum of Dance’s Mr & Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, NY