Judith Jamison

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Born Judith Ann Jamison on 10th May, 1943 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA, she trained early in dance and music and attended the Philadelphia Dance Academy. In 1964, Jamison was invited to join American Ballet Theatre where she performed in Agnes DeMille’s, The Four Mary’s. When the performances ended  she attended an audition held by Donald McKayle but was offered a place in his friend Alvin Ailey’s company. Jamison made her premiere with Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre at Chicago’s Harper Theatre Dance Festival in 1965 in Congo Tango Palace, and in 1966, she toured Europe and Africa with the company. Jamison spent the next thirteen years dancing with the company and learned over seventy ballets. Throughout her performance career she danced in many of Ailey’s most renowned works including Blues Suite and Revelations. On 4th May, 1979, Jamison premiered her famous solo, Cry. Alvin Ailey choreographed this sixteen minute dance as a birthday present for his mother, Lula Cooper, and later dedicated it to “all-black women everywhere, especially our mothers”. The solo is intensely physical and emotionally draining to perform. It celebrates the journey of a woman coming out of a troubled and painful world and finding the strength to overcome and conquer. She never ran the full piece from start to finish until the premiere, the piece received standing ovations and overwhelming critical acclaim, rewarding Jamison with great fame and recognition throughout the dance world. Today, Cry remains a crowd favorite and is still featured in the company’s repertoire. Throughout her years with Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre, Jamison continued to perform all over the world. Along with her work with Ailey’s company, she also appeared as a guest artist with the Swedish Royal Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, and numerous other companies. She danced alongside many renowned dancers, including the ballet legend Mikhail Baryshnikov in a duet entitled Pas de Duke choreographed by Alvin Ailey in 1976. In 1980 she left Ailey’s company to perform in the Broadway musical, Sophisticated Ladies. It was Jamison’s first stage experience outside the realm of concert dance, and she admits it was initially very challenging for her.In 1988, Jamison returned to Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre as an artistic associate. Upon Ailey’s death in 1989, she assumed the role of artistic director and dedicated the next 21 years of her life to the company’s success. Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre continued to thrive as Jamison continued to rehearse and restage classics from the company’s repertory, as well as commission distinguished choreographers to create new works for the dancers. Jamison also continued to choreograph, and created dances such as Forgotten Time, Hymn, Love Stories, and Among Us for the company. In July 2011, Jamison transitioned into the role of Artistic Director Emerita and appointed Robert Battle to the position of Artistic Director Designate.Jamison has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the Kennedy Centre Honours in 1999 and the National Medal of Arts in 2001. Her autobiography, Dancing Spirit, was published in 1993.
 


Judith Jamison- Footage