In honor of Black History Month, here are some of the most influential and inspiring black dancers who paved the way for future generations.
Alvin Ailey Brought the African-American Cultural Experience to the Concert Stage
Ailey's iconic work Revelations continues to resonate nearly 60 years later.
Photo courtesy of Ailey archives
Alvin Ailey founded what would become one of the world's most famous modern dance companies.
Born in Rogers, Texas, during the Great Depression. At age 11, he moved to Los Angeles with his mother and began taking modern dance classes from Lester Horton, choreographer and creator of the Horton technique. In Horton's racially integrated studio and company, Ailey developed a reputation as a strong performer with a commanding stage presence. When Horton died in 1953, 22-year-old Ailey briefly took over the company.
A year later, Ailey moved to New York City to perform in the Broadway show House of Flowers. Over the next four years, he trained with some of the biggest names in modern dance: Martha Graham, Hanya Holm, Anna Sokolow, Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman. In 1958, Ailey created his own troupe—a modern repertory company focused on giving the black cultural experience a voice in concert dance. The company's first performance at the 92nd Street Y, of Ailey's sultry Blues Suite, was an instant success with critics and audiences.