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Ailey, Alvin (1931-1989)  
page: 1  2  

Ailey was a loving man, who was adored by many devoted friends and who functioned as a father figure to his dancers. However, his personal and professional lives were dogged with problems. Abused by lovers, he seemed in later life to enjoy the company of street hustlers. Similarly, he entrusted management and money matters to people who victimized him.

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater did not secure a permanent home and stable management until 1979, when the company and school moved into splendid facilities in the Broadway theater district of Manhattan. But by this time, Ailey had become erratic. He was addicted to cocaine, increasingly crippled by arthritis, and dependent on lithium as a mood regulator.

Like many men of his generation, including Jerome Robbins, for example, Ailey was deeply ashamed of his homosexuality. For years, he refused to consider writing an autobiography because "my mother wouldn't like it." When he finally did collaborate on an autobiography, it was sexually sanitized, notwithstanding the fact that it was to be published posthumously. To spare his mother the social stigma of his death of AIDS in 1989, Ailey asked his doctor to announce that he had died of terminal blood dyscrasia.

Although the choreographer could sincerely dance "I've been 'buked and I've been scorned," he nevertheless managed to celebrate the beauty of his heritage and translate his pain into art. His ballets embody his aspirations for all-encompassing love and compassion. They still rock the soul of a worldwide audience.

Douglas Blair Turnbaugh

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Ailey, Alvin, with A. Peter Bailey. Revelations. The Autobiography of Alvin Ailey. New York: Birch Lane Press; Secaucus, N.J.: Carol Publishing Group, 1995.

Craine, Debra, and Judith Mackrell. "Alvin Ailey." The Oxford Dictionary of Dance. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000. 5-6.

Dunning, Jennifer. A Life in Dance. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley, 1996.

Marie, Jacquelyn. "Alvin Ailey." Gay & Lesbian Biography. Michael J. Tyrkus, ed. Detroit: St. James Press, 8-10.

Mitchell, Jack. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater: Jack Mitchell Photographs. Judith Jamison, foreword; Richard Philp, intro. Kansas City: Andrews and McMeel, 1994.


    Citation Information
    Author: Turnbaugh, Douglas Blair  
    Entry Title: Ailey, Alvin  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated October 23, 2012  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.  


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