Panel Discussion: Celebrating the Life of Alvin Ailey - Dance Classes NYC

Panel Discussion: Celebrating the Life of Alvin Ailey


A panel discussion with Artistic Director Emerita Judith Jamison, Ailey II Artistic Director Emerita Sylvia Waters, beloved former principal dancer Donna Wood, and moderated by 30-year Company veteran Renee Robinson.

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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

As we celebrate what would have been Alvin Ailey's 85th birthday, take a look into his creative heritage with the women who knew him best. In an intimate setting, three legendary women will share their personal stories, experiences, and lessons from Mr. Ailey. Learn the rich history of Ailey’s signature style, how he changed the perception of American dance, and taught us that truly great dance can be a window to the soul.

Please join us in honoring the past, celebrating the present, and fearlessly reaching for the future.



About Judith Jamison

Judith Jamison joined Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1965 and quickly became an international star. Over the next 15 years, Mr. Ailey created some of his most enduring roles for her, most notably the tour-de-force solo Cry. During the 1970s and 80s, she appeared as a guest artist with ballet companies all over the world, starred in the hit Broadway musical Sophisticated Ladies, and formed her own company, The Jamison Project. She returned to Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1989 when Mr. Ailey asked her to succeed him as Artistic Director. In the 21 years that followed, she brought the Company to unprecedented heights – including two historic engagements in South Africa and a 50-city global tour to celebrate the Company’s 50th anniversary. Ms. Jamison is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, among them a prime time Emmy Award, an American Choreography Award, the Kennedy Center Honor, a National Medal of Arts, a “Bessie” Award, the Phoenix Award, and the Handel Medallion. She was also listed in “TIME 100: The World’s Most Influential People” and honored by First Lady Michelle Obama at the first White House Dance Series event. This year, she became the 50th inductee into the Hall of Fame at the National Museum of Dance. As a highly regarded choreographer, Ms. Jamison has created many celebrated works, including Divining (1984), Forgotten Time (1989), Hymn (1993), HERE . . .NOW. (commissioned for the 2002 Cultural Olympiad), Love Stories (with additional choreography by Robert Battle and Rennie Harris, 2004), and Among Us (Private Spaces: Public Places) (2009). Ms. Jamison’s autobiography, Dancing Spirit, was edited by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and published in 1993. In 2004, under Ms. Jamison’s artistic directorship, her idea of a permanent home for the Ailey company was realized and named after beloved Chairman Emerita Joan Weill. Ms. Jamison continues to dedicate herself to asserting the prominence of the arts in our culture, and she remains committed to promoting the significance of the Ailey legacy – using dance as a medium for honoring the past, celebrating the present and fearlessly reaching into the future.

About Sylvia Waters

Sylvia Waters was personally selected by Alvin Ailey in 1974 as Artistic Director of Ailey II and led the company for 38 years.  A graduate of The Juilliard School, Ms. Waters earned a B.S. in Dance prior to moving to Paris, where she appeared regularly on television.  She has also performed in Brussels and at the Summer Olympics in Mexico City.  In 1968, Ms. Waters joined Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and toured with the Company until assuming leadership of Ailey II.  In 1997, she received an honorary doctorate from the State University of New York at Oswego, and she has served as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts.  Ms. Waters is a recipient of the Legacy Award as part of the 20th Annual IABD Festival, Syracuse University’s Women of Distinction Award, a Dance Magazine Award, and a “Bessie” Award.  Currently, Ms. Waters leads The Ailey Legacy Residency, a lecture, technique and repertory program for college-level students that looks definitively into the history and creative heritage of Alvin Ailey.

About Donna Wood

Born in New York City as the middle child of seven children, Donna Wood was raised in Dayton, Ohio, where she began studying dance with the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company at the age of five. She trained extensively in ballet under Josephine Schwartz of the Dayton Ballet. Wood moved to New York in 1972 and joined the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in September of that year. Five years later, she became a leading dancer with the company, noted for her lyrical musicality, supple extensions, and strong, graceful jumps. Wood's performances in Ailey's "Memoria" (1979) and Todd Bolender's "The Still Point" (1954, revived 1980) propelled her to international recognition as a significant interpreter of dramatic dance roles. Her artistry was underscored by a quiet simplicity in performance, and in 1980 she told the NEW YORK TIMES, "I have learned never to force a movement, but to arrive at it naturally." During the early 1980s Wood guest-starred with the Hamburg Ballet, the Vienna State Opera, and the Royal Danish Ballet. In 1985 she left the Ailey company, and took a two-year faculty appointment at CalArts of Valencia, Calif. In 1987 she starred in a production of "Sophisticated Ladies," which toured the Soviet Union and Japan. Three years later Wood retired from performing and married attorney Peter Michael Sanders. In 1991 she and Sanders created the Donna Wood Foundation, "to assist young dancers as they are embarking on careers, giving advice on additional education and skill development" necessary to survival in the dance world.



6:30 pm - 8:00 pm


Panel Discussion Fee