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LGBTQ History #4: Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre

By Michelle Lu

Think Dancing with the Stars has the most impressive dancers? Think again. Check out the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. It’s one of the most popular modern dance companies in the world, fusing ballet, modern dance, jazz, and African dance. The company is based in New York and has performed for an estimated 23 million people in over 71 countries and six continents.

You’ll be dazzled by the physical and artistic abilities of the dancers as well as the creativity of the choreography.

Alvin Ailey

Ailey is credited with helping to popularize modern dance throughout the world. (Image: Getty)

Openly gay choreographer Alvin Ailey founded the company in 1958 to offer more opportunities for African-American talent. He prided himself on employing artists based solely on artistic talent and integrity regardless of their race. “Dance is for everybody. I believe that the dance came from the people and that it should always be delivered back to the people,” said Ailey once.

Ailey created 79 works for his dancers. After nearly 50 years, Ailey’s signature piece, Revelations, is still performed on almost every tour. Revelations tells the story of African-American faith and tenacity from slavery to freedom, and is set to spirituals and blues music.

Ailey is credited with popularizing and revolutionizing African-American participation in 20th-century concert dance. In 2008, after fifty years of performing around the globe, a U.S. Congressional resolution designated the Company as “a vital American cultural ambassador to the world.”


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