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MAKERS Profile

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.

Judith's Biography

Elementary School Instrument:"I played the violin in school."
Alone Time:Spending time on your own is "a key part of having imagination."
The Great Agnes de Mille:"Many people think that Alvin Ailey discovered me in New York. But actually, he didn't. The first person that brought me to New York was Agnes - the great Agnes de Mille."
Spontaneous or Methodical:"Spontaneous. And methodical."

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.

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