The renowned choreographer and dancer Alvin Ailey, who centered his work on showcasing the African-American experience, is the focus of a new movie. Featuring archival footage and interviews with people who knew Ailey intimately, the movie, “Ailey,” delves deep into Ailey’s life.
“Ailey,” directed by Jamila Wignot will premiere at Kansas City’s Ward Parkway AMC theater Thur., Aug. 5 at 7 p.m. Before the movie, Wignot will lead a talk at the theater and after the movie, the audience will have a chance to join in on a discussion.
There will also be a reception at the Black Archives of Mid-America before the movie, at 3:30 p.m. to meet the director.
Once they become available, tickets for the movie will be sold on the Kansas City Friends of Alvin Ailey website: https://kcfaa.org/aileythemovie.
If you ever wanted to know more about the man behind the iconic dances and dance company, this is your chance, especially since Ailey was extremely private. You’ll learn about his early years. He was born in 1931 in Texas, to a single mother and never knew his father. They led a nomadic lifestyle and Ailey even picked cotton to help the family stay afloat. When he was 12, they moved to Los Angeles, where he discovered his love for dance.
By age 23, he was in New York and launched the African-American dance company four years later, in 1958. He created 79 ballets in his lifetime, many of which drew upon his memories of Texas, with blues and gospel inspirations. Among those ballets is the iconic “Revelations,” which is recognized as one of the most popular and most performed ballets in the world.
You go on to learn from the movie that Ailey was an extremely private person, which could have been because he was gay and protecting his lifestyle, and while he was charismatic, he was extremely hard to get to know.
“’Ailey’ creates a feeling about Alvin Ailey: how grace and eloquence, fire and obsession merged within him. We see clips of him in rehearsal, a lion of a man but with a teddy-bear side. He demanded perfection (of course) without turning into that cliché of the dance maestro as sadistic taskmaster,” writes Variety Magazine movie reviewer Owen Geleiberman.
Interestingly, the movie is narrated by Ailey himself, who died in 1989 from complications of AIDS. The audio was taken from an extended interview with Ailey. You also hear from Judith Jamison, who for decades was the star dancer of the Ailey company, and Mary Barnett, the company’s former associated artistic director. Their comments provide even more insight into the man behind the genius.
“Ailey” premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival to rave reviews and has accumulated a 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. For those interested in learning more about the man or in seeing great archival footage of some of their favorite Ailey dances, this movie appears to be worth the time to view.
Estimated running time 1 hour 35 minutes.