Alvin Ailey's Influence on Dance Choreography Essay

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Noah Wilskey Dr. Hale Dance In World Cultures, Final Photo Essay 7 May 2013 Alvin Ailey Born in perhaps one of the roughest decades to be an American in the 20th century, Alvin Ailey, “arguably the most important black American choreographer” first danced his way into the world on January 5th, 1931 (DeFrantz xiii). A decade torn between the economic downfall brought by the Great Depression and extreme racism, the 1930’s was not the ideal decade to be born an African American. Birthed to both African American parents in poverty struck Roger’s Texas, Ailey was raised primarily by his mother, as “his father abandoned the family early on” (Bedinghaus). In fact Ailey “never knew his father” (Dingus). Soon after his birth in Rogers, Ailey, an only child, and his mother moved to nearby Navasota, where “where he started picking cotton at the age of five” (Dingus). (Alfores 2013 http://alflores.com/af_navasota.htm) In 1942, Ailey finally got his first taste of the arts when he and his mother followed the dust bowl movement of the 1930’s and migrated to California. Here Ailey soon “Became a devotee of live entertainment, hearing Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, and other greats” (Dingus). It was also here in Los Angeles where Ailey first developed his interest in dance “when a friend introduced him to the Hollywood studio of [iconic choreographer] Lester Horton” (Lester Horton) (Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival Archives http://www.danceheritage.org/horton.html). By 1949 Ailey was studying under Horton’s company, a company that is “believed to be the first racially integrated Dance Company in the United States” (Monsho). It was here under the influence of Lester Horton, where Alvin Ailey’s career began to blossom . (Ailey Pictured at Horton’s Dance Studio) (Mitchell, Jack.1954) (http://blogs.loc.gov/music/2012/01/pic-of-the-week-happy-birthday-alvin-ailey-edition/)

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