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) and Ms. Jamison could both 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."
Judith Jamison speaks about the creation of Cry:
"....it 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 or Bloomingdales, 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."
Mr. Ailey dedicated this piece to "all Black women everywhere--especially our mothers." In this 3-section 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 production of Cry was 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.