Ailey's Revelation: Judith Jamison Celebrates 20 Years of Guiding Ailey
Asantewaa, Eva Yaa, Dance Magazine
For Judith Jamison--now marking two decades of leading Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and The Ailey School--looking back over an extraordinary career has only provided jet fuel for pressing onward. When asked if succeeding the late Alvin Ailey as artistic director was daunting, she remembers having to pull together with supportive dancers and hit the ground running as a City Center season loomed, with no time to mourn the sudden loss of her great friend and mentor. But she squashes any notion that she then faced, or still must tackle, challenges as a woman at a pinnacle of power and responsibility still rare in dance. Jamison, as a rule, simply allows no room for negativity.
"Not that I would take notice of it," Jamison says. "I'm spiraling upward. I don't need anything dragging me down."
In 1988--following a 15-year run as Ailey's legendary muse, she founded her own company, The Jamison Project, which she led until Ailey's untimely death the following year. So she came back to New York, picked up Ailey's blueprint, and set off to do some serious upward spiraling.
The flight and subsequent achievements of Jamison and the Ailey organization include: the establishment of AileyCamp, which brings dance education to inner-city children and now has branches across the U.S.; the opening of The Joan Weill Center for Dance, Ailey's grand midtown home base; the launching of The Ailey Extension; and the partnership with Fordham University to offer a rigorous BFA in dance. On Jamison's watch, the company became the world's most successful dance institution. The budget has gone from $7 million in 1989 to $24 million in 2009. Ailey performed at President Bill Clinton's inaugural celebration, participated in Olympics ceremonies (Atlanta, 1996, and Salt Lake City, 2002), and enjoyed a historic, post-apartheid residency in South Africa. Along the way, Jamison has garnered armloads of awards--notably, the Kennedy Center Honors, a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Choreography, a National Medal of Arts, France's Commander of the Order of Arts and Letters, a Bessie, and Dance Magazine and Dance Teacher Awards. …