Judith Jamison, Artistic Director Emerita of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater discusses her dance career-from the early years of her training in Philadelphia with Marion Cuyjet and the lack of African-American dancers represented in ballet to her first encounter with Alvin Ailey. Moderated by Norton Owen, Director of Preservation at Jacob's Pillow.
EXCERPT from PillowTalk: Judith Jamison's Life in Dance. Recorded July 13, 2012.
feature world-renowned choreographers, dancers, authors, filmmakers,
historians, and critics in live hour-long moderated discussions of the
cultural forces shaping the field of dance. Curated by Jacob's Pillow
Director of Preservation Norton Owen and moderated by Jacob's Pillow
Scholars-in-Residence, PillowTalks use dance as a prism to explore the
world at large.
After joining Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in
1965, Ms. Jamison 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 "The TIME 100: The World's Most Influential People" and honored by
First Lady Michelle Obama at the first White House Dance Series event.
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 chairman 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.
Jamison began her association with Jacob's Pillow in 1974, when she
performed works by Geoffrey Holder, Lucas Hoving, and John Parks in the
Ted Shawn Theatre. She taught in The School at Jacob's Pillow on three
occasions in the 1980s and 1990s, and returned for a weeklong teaching
residency in 2012. The Jamison Project enjoyed a close relationship with
the Pillow in 1988 and 1989, and Ms. Jamison served as a member of the
Jacob's Pillow Board from 1990 to 1998. She appears in Never Stand
Still, an award-winning documentary about the Pillow released in 2012.
As Director of Preservation for Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, Norton Owen programs the PillowTalks series, directs all activities involving the extensive Archives, and serves as curator for several exhibitions each season. He is a contributing author to numerous books and publications, Past Chair of the Dance Heritage Coalition, President of the O'Donnell-Green Music and Dance Foundation, and was for many years the Institute Director of the José Limón Dance Foundation. In 2000, Dance/USA honored Owen with its Ernie Award for "unsung heroes who have led exemplary lives in dance."