Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, dance company member, New York, NY

Under the direction of Sharon Gersten Luckman, executive director, and Robert Battle, artistic director, and their predecessors, the Alvin Ailey Foundation has grown to umbrella numerous entities including the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Ailey II, the Ailey School, Ailey Arts In Education and Community Programs, and the Ailey Extension. The organization continues striving to further Alvin Ailey’s innovative work through an extended cultural community.

1.    Describe your organization’s mission and its work in 3 adjectives. Please explain the adjectives you selected.

Accessible: In addition to presenting dance on the concert stage, and in accordance with Ailey’s dictum “dance is for everybody,” the Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation, Inc. offers many programs that further Ailey’s long-standing commitment to building an extended cultural community, including – Ailey II, The Ailey School, The Ailey Extension and Arts in Education and Community programs.

Excellence: Regarded as one of the world’s premiere modern dance companies, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is a recipient of the National Medal of Arts and is recognized by a U.S. Congressional resolution as a vital American “Cultural Ambassador to the World.” The Ailey Company has gone on to perform for an estimated 23 million people at theaters in 48 states and 71 countries on six continents -- as well as millions more through television broadcasts.  

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater grew from a now-fabled performance in March 1958 at the 92nd Street Y in New York City.  Led by Alvin Ailey and a group of young African-American modern dancers, that performance forever changed the perception of American dance.  Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater continues to inspire and unite people of all backgrounds around the globe.

2.    What inspires the work of your organization and why?

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is inspired by the vision of our Founder Alvin Ailey and our new Artistic Director Robert Battle. Ailey was a pioneer in using the American modern dance tradition and the African-American cultural experience to inspire all in a universal celebration of the human spirit. Artistic Director Robert Battle continues to extend the Ailey legacy into the future with premieres and new productions that expand his vision for the company, and by adding dynamic choreographic voices to the repertory that challenge the Company’s extraordinary artists in new ways, inspires all who work in the organization.

3.    What accomplishment from the past year is your organization most proud of and eager to share with Dance/USA’s membership and the field at large?

Our most recent season marked a historic moment in Ailey history as Battle took the helm as the new Artistic Director, only the third artistic director in the Company’s 53-year history, following the illustrious Judith Jamison and Founder, Alvin Ailey, himself. In his first season, Battle incorporated new and exciting works into the Company repertory including Rennie Harris’ Home, which illustrates the fight of HIV through the lens of hip hop, and historic works that have never been performed by the Company before, like Paul Taylor’s Arden Court. Battle also implemented the New Directions Choreography Lab. Assisting choreographers in developing their work; the program grants resident fellowships to four emerging and mid-career artists each year, offering a stipend, the use of dancers from The Ailey School, creative mentorships, and rehearsal time at The Joan Weill Center for Dance. Unlike other programs that require the production and presentation of a final performance or commission, Ailey’s New Directions Choreography Lab has allowed choreographers to focus solely on the process of choreography as a creative experience, free from all restricting expectations or deadlines.

4.    Where do you see dance in the future and how does your organization fit within that vision?

Dance has become a cultural sensation, stretching beyond the concert stage and now reaching millions of households through popular dance television shows. Ailey has always been at the forefront of the movement to make dance accessible to all and was the first concert dance company to appear as guest artists on So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing with the Stars. The organization continues to fulfill Ailey’s life-long commitment of bringing dance to everyone through The Ailey School; Ailey Arts In Education & Community Programs which brings dance into the classrooms, communities, and lives of people of all ages through programs like the Ailey Camp and Revelations Residencies; and The Ailey Extension, a public dance and fitness program that offers “real classes for real people” in various techniques and levels.

5.    As an organization, what do you hope your dance legacy to be?

Alvin Ailey believed that "dance came from the people and should always be delivered back to the people." Through the many facets of the Ailey organization and the remarkable artistry of 30 extraordinary dancers, Ailey will inspire, enlighten, and educate people around the world. As the Ailey legacy flourishes, the organization will continue to honor the past, celebrate the present, and fearlessly reach into the future – inspiring dancers of all ages, levels, and walks of life along the way!