Alvin Ailey by Jennifer Dunning
A Life In Dance

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Synopsis

Now for the first time, the life and work of Alvin Ailey, one of the most beloved figures in modern dance, is examined by a writer uniquely able to place him and his legacy in perspective. Jennifer Dunning, New York Times dance critic and reporter, brings her expertise, extensive research, and a compassionate intelligence to this larger-than-life personality, making Alvin Ailey not just a portrait of a man, but also of his time.Ailey’s story is the stuff of legend. His ”Revelations,” one of the great American dance classics, is said to have been seen by more people than any other work in dance history. Yet the small-town-culture that is at the heart of his finest work was absorbed by a child growing up in devastating poverty, neglected by a loving but exhausted mother who raised him alone. Aware of his homosexuality from his teens, Ailey lived and worked in the unusually accepting world of the theater but sometimes hid his sexuality as if he had never left his conservative family and Southern church. An athlete in his youth and a member of a profession that idealizes physical perfection, Ailey abused his body with alcohol and, later, drugs. Surrounded by admiring friends, he felt alone. Yet against great odds, Ailey pulled the pieces of this life together to create a passionate mosaic of art and dance, giving birth to an indispensable institution that continues to play a joyous, vibrant role throughout the world. Dunning shows us how Ailey took the essence of his experiences—whether from the driving rhythmic music that poured from the local Dew Drop Inn on hot Saturday nights, or the simple motion of men beating the water to drive back snakes during his baptism—and translated them into masterpieces.Filled with stunning photographs and hundreds of interviews with those who knew him (including such stars of dance and theater as Mikhail Baryshnikov, Judith Jamison, Lena Horne, Katherine Dunham, Sidney Poitier, and Dustin Hoffman), Alvin Ailey is the story of a man who wove his life and his culture into his dance—and into the fabric of America itself.
 

About Jennifer Dunning

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Dunning is a dance critic for the New York Times.
 
Published January 1, 1996 by Diane Pub Co. 468 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Humor & Entertainment, Arts & Photography. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Alvin Ailey

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His tumultuously productive professional life ultimately saw the triumph of his vision of African-American identity in such dances as Cry and Revelations and the achievement of interracial artistic harmony in his integrated company, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

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Publishers Weekly

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Even those who have never attended a modern dance performance can recognize the drama of Alvin Ailey's life. His was the classic rags-to-riches tale. Born in Rogers, Tex., Ailey (1931-1989) overca

Sep 02 1996 | Read Full Review of Alvin Ailey: A Life In Dance

The New York Times

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It is always interesting to see how dances look when performed in different spaces.

Jul 21 1984 | Read Full Review of Alvin Ailey: A Life In Dance

The New York Times

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The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater moved into business as usual on Thursday at City Center, following the tumultuous opening night gala celebration of its 25th anniversary.

Dec 03 1983 | Read Full Review of Alvin Ailey: A Life In Dance

The New York Times

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Her dancing was as elegantly lyrical in “Night Creature” as it was in “The River.” Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performs through Dec. 31 at City Center, 131 West 55th Street, Manhattan;

Dec 07 2007 | Read Full Review of Alvin Ailey: A Life In Dance

The New York Times

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Restaged by Mr. Chaya and dedicated to the memory of the eloquent Ailey dancer Gary DeLoatch, this group dance is a loving tribute to Dizzy Gillespie, whose portrait descends onto the stage after a suite of dances set to his music.

Dec 17 2004 | Read Full Review of Alvin Ailey: A Life In Dance

The New York Times

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The occasion was the premiere of David Parsons's "Shining Star," performed by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at one of those rollicking Ailey events, this time a tribute to the company's corporate donors, when the sleekest of Wall Street types get down pretty good with all the rest of us.

Dec 11 2004 | Read Full Review of Alvin Ailey: A Life In Dance

The New York Times

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Brown celebrates the captive community of New York subway riders in her delicious “Groove to Nobody’s Business,” first performed by the Ailey company on Friday night at City Center.

Dec 10 2007 | Read Full Review of Alvin Ailey: A Life In Dance

The New York Times

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The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater came up with the perfect holiday dance present on Friday night at City Center.

Dec 27 2001 | Read Full Review of Alvin Ailey: A Life In Dance

The New York Times

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Content triumphed over form in a program presented by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater on Wednesday night at City Center.

Dec 15 2006 | Read Full Review of Alvin Ailey: A Life In Dance

The New York Times

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Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has perfected the art of staging repertory excerpts as a smooth-flowing vibrant whole, like the “Ailey Classics” program on Saturday afternoon at City Center.

Dec 31 2007 | Read Full Review of Alvin Ailey: A Life In Dance

The New York Times

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Graf’s portrayal the character is an innocent caught in the vise of fame.

Jan 01 2008 | Read Full Review of Alvin Ailey: A Life In Dance

The New York Times

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Courtney Brené Corbin and Willy Laury were stylish, charming proof that Ailey knew a thing or two about classical ballet as well as modern dance.

Dec 13 2007 | Read Full Review of Alvin Ailey: A Life In Dance

Publishers Weekly

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Even those who have never attended a modern dance performance can recognize the drama of Alvin Ailey's life.

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