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Judith Jamison

Artistic Director Emerita, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

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In this interview, dancer and choreographer Judith Jamison talks about studying ballet as a young girl, how she came to join Alvin Ailey's groundbreaking dance company that put people of color in the forefront, and Ailey's untimely passing, which gave her  the immense responsibility of running the company.
Dancer and choreographer Judith Jamison joined Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1965 and over the next 15 years, originated some of Mr. Ailey's most enduring roles, most notably the sixteen minute solo that catapulted her into fame "Cry." Alvin Ailey dedicated the dance to "all-black women everywhere."   During the 1970s and 80s, Jamison appeared as a guest artist with ballet companies all over the world and starred in the hit Broadway musical Sophisticated Ladies. In 1989, she returned to Alvin Ailey when Ailey asked her to succeed him as Artistic Director. In the 21 years that followed, Jamison brought the Company to new heights – including two historic engagements in South Africa and a 50-city global tour to celebrate the Company’s 50th anniversary.   Jamison is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, among them a prime time Emmy Award, an American Choreography Award, the Kennedy Center Honor, a National Medal of Arts, and in 2013, she was the 50th inductee into the Hall of Fame at the National Museum of Dance. Her autobiography, "Dancing Spirit", was edited by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and published in 1993.

More From Judith

Heroes on the Small Screen
Artistic Director Emerita of Alvin Ailey, Judith Jamison explains the excitement and surprise at seeing people of color, especially women of color she idolized, on television.

No Money in Dance
Judith Jamison explains that while there was - and still is - little money in dance, she and her company members danced for something more than money; they danced to communicate a culture and a story.

Artistic Director Emerita of Alvin Ailey Judith Jamison shares the story behind her famous solo "Cry," including how she never actually ran the piece in its entirety until the premiere. 

Eight Shows a Week
Artistic Director Emerita of Alvin Ailey Judith Jamison talks about leaving Alvin Ailey in 1980 to take on a different kind of performance... Broadway.

All Women in Charge
Dance icon Judith Jamison talks about women leaders in the dance industry and while doing so, has a revelation.

Part of the Forest
Judith Jamison talks about the philosophy of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and how it is truly a company, not one single person.

Living is a Story
Alvin Ailey's Judith Jamison explains how dancing is one of the ways we tell the stories of our lives.

Alvin Ailey Barbie
Alvin Ailey's Judith Jamison talks about designing the Barbie doll for the dance company's 50th anniversary and why she's incredibly happy with the outcome.

Statement of My Body
Artistic Director Emerita of Alvin Ailey Judith Jamison talks feminism and how she viewed herself as a dancer on stage.