Dance Performances - Cry

About Cry


Alvin Ailey choreographed his signature solo Cry as a birthday present for his dignified mother, and created the dance on his stunning muse, Judith Jamison.

Mrs. Cooper (Alvin Ailey's mother), Ms. Jamison and Carmen de Lavallade could be considered the archetypal Ailey woman - a role that has been passed on to all the women in the Ailey ranks to whom Ms. Jamison has taught this solo.

In her autobiography Dancing Spirit, Ms. Jamison wrote: "Exactly where the woman is going through the ballet's three sections was never explained to me by Alvin. In my interpretation, she represented those women before her who came from the hardships of slavery, through the pain of losing loved ones, through overcoming extraordinary depressions and tribulations. Coming out of a world of pain and trouble, she has found her way-and triumphed."

Listen to Artistic Director Emerita Judith Jamison talk about the ballet

Judith Jamison speaks about the creation of Cry:

" was a birthday present for Alvin's mother. You see, she was coming from Texas to see her son's company and Alvin knew she'd be celebrating a birthday in New York. In those days none of us could shop at Tiffany's or Bloomingdale's so Alvin decided the nicest present he could give his mother was a ballet. We went into the studio...and began moving to the music...and in a few days...Alvin made an enduring work of art....Cheering audiences still have Alvin's birthday present to his mother."

Ailey dedicated this piece to "all black women everywhere--especially our mothers." In this three part solo, the dancer, clad in a white leotard and long ruffled skirt, brings the audience on a journey of bitter sorrow, brutal hardship and ecstatic joy.

This new production of Cry is made possible with generous support from Judith McDonough Kaminski and Joseph Kaminski.

The original production of Cry was made possible, in part, by a grant from Ford Foundation.

Performance Schedule & Tickets

Jun 12

Jun 16



Masazumi Chaya


Alice Coltrane's "Something about John Coltrane," Laura Nyro's "Been on a Train," The Voices of East Harlem "Right on. Be Free."


A. Christina Giannini


Chenault Spence

Choreography coaching

Judith Jamison, Donna Wood Sanders

First Performance

New York City Center, May 4, 1971, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Run Time

16 minutes

Groups 10+

Group discounting for Ailey at Lincoln Center has begun.
Learn More

NYCC general


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News & Press

Ailey dancer and guest Ailey Blog contributor Megan Jakel interviews dancer Rachael McLaren about taking on and embodying Judith Jamison's iconic role in Alvin Ailey's tour-de-force female solo 'Cry' – which she, as well as fellow dancers, will perform as a new production this season at New York City Center. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performs at City Center now through January 3rd:
In 1971, Alvin Ailey choreographed the ballet, Cry, as a birthday present for his mother; it went on to become an enduring work of American art.