Alvin Ailey: A Life in Dance

Overview

Alvin Ailey (1931?1989) was a choreographic giant in the modern dance world and a champion of African-American talent and culture. His interracial Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater provided opportunities to black dancers and choreographers when no one else would. His acclaimed ?Revelations? remains one of the most performed modern dance pieces in the twentieth century. But he led a tortured life, filled with insecurity and self-loathing. Raised in poverty in rural Texas by his single mother, he managed to find ...

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Overview

Alvin Ailey (1931–1989) was a choreographic giant in the modern dance world and a champion of African-American talent and culture. His interracial Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater provided opportunities to black dancers and choreographers when no one else would. His acclaimed “Revelations” remains one of the most performed modern dance pieces in the twentieth century. But he led a tortured life, filled with insecurity and self-loathing. Raised in poverty in rural Texas by his single mother, he managed to find success early in his career, but by the 1970s his creativity had waned. He turned to drugs, alcohol, and gay bars and suffered a nervous breakdown in 1980. He was secretive about his private life, including his homosexuality, and, unbeknownst to most at the time, died from AIDS-related complications at age 58.Now, for the first time, the complete story of Ailey’s life and work is revealed in this biography. Based on his personal journals and hundreds of interviews with those who knew him, including Mikhail Baryshnikov, Judith Jamison, Lena Horne, Katherine Dunham, Sidney Poitier, and Dustin Hoffman, Alvin Ailey is a moving story of a man who wove his life and culture into his dance.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Ailey was one of the choreographic giants of this century, known particularly for his evocation of the African American experience. Dunning, a dance critic and reporter for the New York Times, has meticulously researched the choreographer's often difficult and always guarded life, from his "rambling, rural" boyhood in southeastern Texas and adolescence in Los Angeles, where he began dance studies with Lester Horton, to his early Broadway appearances and the glory years of the New York-based Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Dunning interviewed more than 135 persons and made extensive use of archival material, as well as the posthumously published Revelations: The Autobiography of Alvin Ailey (with Peter Bailey, Birch Lane, 1995). As the book's subtitle suggests, Dunning focuses on the career, relating a clean chronological narrative of dances, seasons, and tours. Yet the personal torments (e.g., racial discrimination, bouts of manic-depressiveness, and death from AIDS in 1989) as well as the abundant charm and energy of the private man are described as well. Essential for any library maintaining a core collection of modern dance or African American culture, and for comprehensive collections in gay studies or American biography.Robert W. Melton, Univ. of Kansas, Lawrence
Chicago Sun Times
Finely researched and beautifully written. -- Chicago Sun Times
Allan Ulrich
[A]uthor Dunning, a veteran New York Times dance critic and reporter, has given us a book worthy of her subject - a compassionate, objective, yet superbly informed and meticulously researched study of a genuine superstar.
The Advocate
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780306808258
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press
  • Publication date: 4/1/1998
  • Pages: 496
  • Sales rank: 690,017
  • Product dimensions: 5.96 (w) x 8.92 (h) x 1.18 (d)

Meet the Author

A dance critic and reporter for theNew York Times, Jennifer Dunning has covered the dance world since the 1970s. She lives in New York City.

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