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Alvin Ailey surrounded by the Company, 1978. Photography by Jack Mitchell, © Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation, Inc. and Smithsonian Institution, all rights reserved

From 1961 to 1994, legendary photographer Jack Mitchell captured thousands of moments with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Now, this treasure trove of dance history is available to the public for viewing via the online archives of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The collection includes both color and black-and-white images of Ailey's repertoire, as well as private photo sessions with company members and Ailey himself. Altogether, the archive tracks the career development of many beloved Ailey dancers, including Masazumi Chaya, Judith Jamison, Sylvia Waters, Donna Wood and Dudley Williams—and even a young Desmond Richardson. And there's no shortage of photos of iconic pieces like Blues Suite (Ailey's first piece of choreography), Cry and Revelations.

We couldn't resist sharing a few of our favorites below. Search the collection for more gems here.

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Alvin Ailey. Photo by Normand Maxon, Courtesy AAADT

Here's some Monday news to rock your soul: An upcoming Fox Searchlight film about the life of Alvin Ailey just got even more enticing—Barry Jenkins, the filmmaker who won an Oscar for Moonlight, has signed on as director.

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Misty Copeland opened the 2018 Dance Magazine Awards. Photo by Christopher Duggan.

What does it mean to be human? Well, many things. But if you were at the Dance Magazine Awards last week, you could argue that to be human is to dance. Speeches about the powerful humanity of our art form were backed up with performances by incredible dancers hailing from everywhere from Hubbard Street Dance Chicago to Miami City Ballet.

Misty Copeland started off the celebration. A self-professed "Dance Magazine connoisseur from the age of 13," she not only spoke about how excited she was to be in a room full of dancers, but also—having just come from Dance Theatre of Harlem's memorial for Arthur Mitchell—what she saw as their duty: "We all in this room hold a responsibility to use this art for good," she said. "Dance unifies, so let's get to work."

That sentiment was repeated throughout the night.

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As you assemble your gratitude list for this Thanksgiving, stop and consider some of the works that paved the way for the diverse dance world we enjoy today. Whether they introduced a radical new style of movement, controversial subject matter or a particularly poignant message, these five works broke choreographic barriers and have withstood the test of time.


The Rite of Spring (performed by the Joffrey Ballet)

Vaslav Nijinsky's The Rite of Spring (1913) Audience members rioted at the Paris premiere of this work about a virgin sacrifice. Nijinsky's stark, geometric choreography complemented Igor Stravinsky's highly rhythmic score.

Lamentation (performed by PeiJu Chien-Pott)

Martha Graham's Lamentation (1930) Using only a tubular piece of purple fabric and a bench, Graham created one of the most recognizable images of modern dance. Her solo about grieving contains anguished movement set to sparse piano accompaniment.

The Green Table (performed by American Ballet Theatre)

Kurt Jooss' The Green Table (1932) This politically charged work turned heads with its strong antiwar statement. Bald men in black coattails gather around a green conference table to declare war. Soldiers, women and profiteers all perish as the character Death marches on behind them.

Revelations (performed by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater)

Alvin Ailey's Revelations (1960) Ailey's tribute to the African-American spirit, set to gospel music, takes audience members through the gamut of human emotion––from the soulful duet Fix Me, Jesus to the joyous finale, Rocka My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham.

Rainer was a leading figure in the postmodern dance movement.

Yvonne Rainer's Trio A (1966) This postmodern solo, now a staple in college dance history courses, includes basic pedestrian movement and passive gestures. Like her Judson Church–era cohort, Rainer was interested in function over form.

Photos from top: by Roger Mastroianni, courtesy of the Joffrey Ballet; by Hibbard Nash, courtesy of Martha Graham Dance Company; by Marty Sohl, courtesy of American Ballet Theatre; by Gert Krautbauer, courtesy of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; courtesy of Dance Magazine archives

Kirven and Antonio Douthit-Boyd (Photo by Jacob Blickenstaff, courtesy of Douthit-Boyd)

To celebrate Valentine's Day in the most dance-centric way possible, we sat down with five powerhouse dance-teaching couples to talk about their love stories. What do they admire about each other? What are their couple goals and their teaching philosophies, and how do they make their relationships work, especially when they work together? Get ready to swoon!

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Roberts in Garth Fagan's From Before. Photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy of AAADT

As a young dancer, Alvin Ailey principal Jamar Roberts learned more than just how to pick up choreography quickly from his teacher and mentor Angel Fraser-Logan at the Dance Empire of Miami. In a recent New York Times article, Roberts, says that Fraser-Logan "taught me how to be an artist—the importance of dance being a form of expression and not just a physical act you do when music is on."

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In our July issue's History: Lesson Plan, we learn about Alvin Ailey, who founded what would become one of the world's most famous modern dance companies. From its earliest days, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performed dances that reflected the African-American cultural experience to concert dance audiences.

Jacqueline Green in Alvin Ailey's Cry

Check out excerpts from Ailey's 1971 masterpiece Cry. In this piece, dedicated to Black women everywhere, a woman in a long white skirt expresses anguish, strength and joy through sharp gestures, suspended balances on one leg, spinal undulations and spinning. Cry was created on Judith Jamison, who performed with the company, 1965–80, and was handpicked by Ailey to succeed him as artistic director.

Photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy of AAADT

For more on Ailey, subscribe to Dance Teacher and receive the July issue.

Photo by Eva F. Maze, courtesy of Ailey archives

Alvin Ailey founded what would become one of the world's most famous modern dance companies. From its earliest days, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performed dances that reflected the African-American cultural experience to concert dance audiences. Ailey's iconic work Revelations continues to resonate nearly 60 years later. The company has performed for more than 25 million people on six continents

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