Alvin Ailey Biography Essay

Submitted By brebabe18
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Alvin Ailey was an accomplished dancer and choreographer whose African-American heritage influenced his works in the 20th century. His successful dance career has gained international recognition and acclaim thus rendering a significant legacy. Ailey’s background as a dancer and choreographer had many strong influences from social, cultural, economic and political aspects during his early life. His African-American heritage has greatly influenced his works.

From the moment Alvin Ailey was born he was immediately introduced into the cause and effects of racial differences associated with African-Americans. Ailey was born in 1931 in Rogers, Texas. He grew up in the heart of the Great Depression in the United States influencing Ailey and his Mother to move around often as finding work was a struggle. During this time period, the rumors of lynching’s and violence with African-Americans only grew more evident as racial segregation developed further. Ailey then learned to live his life in apprehension of whites as his mother was raped by a group of white men when Ailey was young. After living most his childhood feeling as an “outsider” due to segregation, Ailey and his mother then moved to Los Angles. Being born into this difficult time period for African-American’s, allowed Ailey to express his feelings through choreography such as the piece “Cry”(1971). By dedicating this piece to “Black woman everywhere-especially our mothers”, you see the struggles these women were forced to face everyday in order to support their families just like Ailey’s mother. Cry explores the themes of slavery and pride associated within Ailey’s heritage.

His dance training also influenced his background as a choreographer. His love of dance blossomed as he was introduced to a modern dance school in LA directed by choreographer Lester Horton. Horton offered Ailey a scholarship in 1949 that led to dance training and touring with his company. Horton then suffered a heart attack and passed away, leaving Ailey in the hands of becoming the company’s new artistic director. His first task as the new director included choreographing two pieces in Horton’s style to be presented at the Jacob’s Pillow Festival. Poor reviews caused the troupe to later break up. Shortly after Ailey began taking classes to enhance his dance knowledge at the Martha Graham School, where he studied ballet and acting. Aspects of the Graham technique can be seen in his works such as Cry where the dancer uses