Who was Alvin Ailey? This article covers everything we know about the legendary dancer and choreographer.
Alvin Ailey was an American dancer and activist.
His choreographic masterpiece Revelations is one of the most popular and most performed ballets worldwide.
American Masters’s Ailey documentary directed by Jamila Wignot examines the life of the legendary choreographer.
American Masters: Alvin Ailey – Who Was He? Death Cause
Alvin Ailey was a dance choreographer responsible for establishing Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AAADT).
Born on 5 January 1931 in Rogers, Texas, at the pinnacle of the Great Depression, he died on 1 December 1989 from an AIDS-related illness at Lenox Hill Hospital, New York. Nevertheless, he asked his doctors to announce his death cause to be blood dyscrasia to protect his mother from the disgrace associated with HIV/AIDS.
Alvin’s father, Alvin Ailey Sr., had abandoned him when he was three months old, resulting in him and his mother, Lula Elizabeth Ailey, working in cotton fields as domestics in white homes.
In 1941, his mother moved to Los Angeles for a better job, and a year later, he also arrived there. He then graduated from George Washington Carver Junior High School and Thomas Jefferson High School.
Alvin seeing the Katherine Dunham Dance Company and Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo perform at Philharmonic Auditorium in 1946 was his first experience with concert dance. Nonetheless, he became serious about dance after his classmate and friend Carmen De Lavallade took him to the Melrose Avenue studio, Lester Horton, in 1949.
He learned a variety of dance styles and techniques at Horton’s school but pursued academic courses at UCLA. Then in 1953, he joined Horton’s dance company and debuted with Revue Le Bal Caribe. The same year, his mentor died in November from a heart attack resulting in him becoming an artistic director and choreographer.
Alvis met numerous people and became a part of many shows throughout his eventful career. Some of them are Herbert Ross’ House of Flowers, Geoffrey Holder, Harry Belafonte’s Sing, Man, Sing with Mary Hinkson, Jamaica, and others.
Eventually, in 1969, he founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center with Pearl Lang. After three decades, the school’s name changed to The Ailey School.
Alvin was the recipient of many honors and awards, including the Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts (1968), Spingarn Medal (1977), and Kennedy Center Honors (1988). Similarly, he is also the 1992 National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame, 2019 Rainbow Honor Walk, and 2012 Legacy Walk inductee.
Further, President Barack Obama gave him posthumously the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2014. Likewise, a Mercury crater received a name in his honor in 2012.
Alvin Ailey Wife And Family Now – Was He Married?
Alvin Ailey didn’t have a wife as he never married anyone.
He was notorious for keeping his life private. Although gay, he never disclosed his romantic affairs. In 1980, he suffered a mental breakdown, and doctors diagnosed him as manic depressive (bipolar disorder) after his friend’s death, Joyce Trisler, a failed relationship, and heavy drinking/cocaine use.
As for Alvin’s family, there isn’t much available online, including their identity and whereabouts.