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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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Dance Teachers Trending
Forsythe has taught Horton at AAADT since 1973 and continues to mine the technique daily for its legendary specificity and discipline. Photo by Nicole Tintle, courtesy of The Ailey School

Ana Marie Forsythe's eyes twinkle, and a smile plays at the corners of her mouth as she welcomes the 40-plus teachers who are enrolled for her two-week-long Horton teacher-training workshop at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater studios in New York City—plus me, a dancer and writer, taking part for the day. As we watch Genius on the Wrong Coast, a film about Lester Horton, the "princess of Horton" (as someone aptly refers to Forsythe) offers her own version of a director's commentary: She identifies faces as they appear onscreen and interjects her own narration ("Fortification 15—that's the one I hated so much," she says).

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Dance Teachers Trending

Though Asadata Dafora isn't widely known today, he blazed a trail for countless African-based dance companies who enjoy a firm foothold on the concert dance stage today. He reworked the spatial orientation of various cultural dances to fit a proscenium stage and made them more presentational to appeal to Western audiences.

Dafora influenced many dance artists directly, most notably Katherine Dunham, Pearl Primus and Charles Moore, and heads a rich African-dance lineage that includes such luminaries as Jawole Willa Jo Zollar and the late Chuck Davis. In 1977, Davis founded DanceAfrica, an annual festival that celebrates African culture through dance, music, art and film.

Here are three of his most iconic works.

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Dance Teachers Trending
Sarah Daley with Vernard J. Gilmore in Johan Inger's Walking Mad. Photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy of AAADT

Before joining Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Sarah Daley learned how to find inspiration in everyday life from her mentor Watmora Casey.

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If you've seen Alvin Ailey's masterpiece, Revelations, you know why it's so popular—it's a powerful piece of dance that reflects African-American heritage and culture and takes the viewer on an emotional journey, from sorrow to elation to hope. (That Ailey choreographed this piece when he was only 29 years old makes it that much more incredible, to me.) Getting to hear what it's like to dance such a watershed piece from the performers themselves is a special treat. After all, they're the ones inside the piece, bringing it to life. Watch this short video to hear from company stars and guest artists about what makes Revelations special:

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Antonio (left) and Kirven married in 2013. Photo by Matthew Karas

When Antonio and Kirven Douthit-Boyd took their final bows with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AAADT) in August 2015, they knew exactly what their next step would be. Within two weeks they moved to St. Louis, Missouri, Antonio's hometown, to become co-artistic directors of the dance program at Center of Creative Arts (COCA), the same performing arts center where Antonio had enrolled as a teenager. Their job involves guiding aspiring professional dancers and directing and choreographing performances for both the school and the performance stage.

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Ailey II in Bridget L. Moore's Sketches of Flames. Photo by Kyle Froman, courtesy of Ailey

Ailey II will make its NYU Skirball Center debut March 29–April 2. The program will include two programs of premieres and returning favorites from established and up-and-coming choreographers, including Leila Da Rocha, Jean Emile, Jae Man Joo, Ray Mercer, Bridget L. Moore, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater member Jamar Roberts and former Ailey dancer Marcus Jarrell Willis.

“We are thrilled to return to New York for our annual engagement, and to present our first season at NYU Skirball Center for the Arts," says Ailey II artistic director Troy Powell. “The two programs include diverse and powerful works that showcase the strength, grace and versatility of these gifted young dancers."

For ticket information, visit here and enter DT's Win It! to win tickets.


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