Ailey is a dynamic profile of the iconic dancer and choreographer Alvin Ailey. Framed around a remastered voice over of Ailey himself recounting his own life story, the film takes us from his humble childhood in segregated Texas through his stints on Broadway and in Hollywood, before finding his niche as a choreographer and founding his eponymous dance troupe. Interwoven with awe-inspiring dance footage of Ailey and his company over the decades is the current company rehearsing choreographer Rennie Harris’s hauntingly beautiful tribute piece to Ailey. Colleagues and fellow dance greats Judith Jamison, Bill T. Jones, Carmen de Lavallade round out the story of this trailblazer who, through dance, interpreted the Black American experience with grace, strength and unparalleled beauty.
Mining the extensive Ailey archives, award-winning director Jamila Wignot treats us to rarely seen footage of early performances, while also providing fly-on-the-wall access to the inner workings of today’s company, displaying the continuum of movement that was Mr. Ailey’s lifeblood. Through her skillful direction emerges this nuanced portrait of a complex and gifted man, an apt tribute to his life and legacy. —Karen McMullen
*Part of the Juneteenth programming
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Purchased films remain available to stream on demand from above date through June 22
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Jamila Wignot directed two episodes of PBS’s The African-Americans: Many Rivers to Cross and one for PBS’s American Experience series. Her producing credits include Bring The Pain, A Stray, Street Fighting Men, and The Rehnquist Revolution for WNET’s The Supreme Court.