Judith Jamison

Judith Ann Jamison was born May 10, 1943 to Tessie Brown Jamison and John Jamison, Sr.[2] She is an American dancer and choreographer, best known as a ballet dancer and as the Artistic Director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Judith Jamison
Judith Ann Jamison

May 10, 1943 (age 76)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
ResidencePhiladelphia, New York City[1]
EducationFisk University
University of the Arts
OccupationDancer 1964-1988
Artistic director 1989-2011
Years active1964-2011
Home townPhiladelphia
Height5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)[1]
Current groupAlvin Ailey Dance Theater
Former groups
DancesCry, Revelations

Early training

Judith Jamison was born and grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with her mother, father, and older brother.[3] Her father taught her to play the piano, and violin. She was exposed to the prominent art culture in Philadelphia from a very early age. At the age of six, she began her dance training at Judimar School of Dance. There she studied with Marion Cuyjet who became one of Jamison's early mentors. Under Cuyjet's tutelage, Jamison studied classical ballet, and modern dance. The Judimar studios were treated as a "holy place" and there was always a sense of performance and theatricality in Cuyjet's classes.[4] By age eight, Jamison began dancing on pointe and started taking classes in tap dancing, acrobatics, and Dunham technique (which was referred to as "primitive").

A few years later, Cuyjet began sending Jamison to other teachers to advance her dance education. She learned the Cechetti method from Antony Tudor, founder of the Philadelphia Ballet Guild, and studied with Delores Brown Abelson, a graduate of Judimar who pursued a performance career in New York City before returning to Philadelphia to teach. Throughout high school, Jamison was also member of numerous sports organizations, the Glee Club, and the Philadelphia String Ensemble. She studied Dalcroze Eurhythmics, a system that teaches rhythm through movement.

At age seventeen, Jamison graduated from Judimar and began her collegiate studies at Fisk University.[5] After three semesters there, she transferred to the Philadelphia Dance Academy (now the University of the Arts) where she studied dance with James Jamieson, Nadia Chilkovsky, and Yuri Gottschalk. In addition to her technique classes, she took courses in Labanotation, kinesiology, and other dance studies. During this time, she also learned the Horton technique from Joan Kerr, which required great strength, balance, and concentration.[4]

In 1992, Jamison was inducted into Delta Sigma Theta sorority as an honorary member.

Performance career

In 1964, after seeing Jamison in a master class, Agnes DeMille invited her to come to New York to perform in a new work that she was choreographing for American Ballet Theatre, The Four Marys.[4] Jamison immediately accepted the offer and spent the next few months working with the company. When the performances ended and she found herself in New York without a job, Jamison attended an audition held by Donald McKayle. She felt that she performed very poorly in the audition and claimed, "I felt as if I had two left feet."[4] However, a few days later, a friend of McKayle's, Alvin Ailey, called Jamison to offer her a place in his company – Alvin Ailey Dance Theater.

Jamison made her premiere with Alvin Ailey Dance Theater at Chicago's Harper Theater Dance Festival in 1965 in Congo Tango Palace, and in 1966, she toured Europe and Africa with the company. Jamison had always had a strong interest in African identity; therefore, traveling to Africa with the company and having the opportunity to observe the culture first-hand was an exciting and valuable experience for her.[3] Unfortunately, soon afterward, financial complications forced Ailey to put his company on a temporary hiatus. During this time, Jamison danced with Harkness Ballet and served as an assistant to the artistic director. However, she immediately returned to Alvin Ailey Dance Theater when the company re-formed in 1967. Jamison spent the next thirteen years dancing with Alvin Ailey Dance Theater and learned over seventy ballets. "With Ailey`s troupe, Jamison did many U.S. State Department tours of Europe, going behind the Iron Curtain as well as into Asia and Turkey. She danced quite a bit in Germany, which she says became her second home,".[1] Throughout her performance career with the company she danced in many of Ailey's most renowned works, including Blues Suite and Revelations.

On May 4, 1971, Jamison premiered her famous solo, Cry. Alvin Ailey choreographed this sixteen-minute dance as a birthday present for his mother, Lula Cooper, and later dedicated it to "all-black women everywhere, especially our mothers."[6] The solo is intensely physical and emotionally draining to perform. It celebrates the journey of a woman coming out of a troubled and painful world and finding the strength to overcome and conquer. She never ran the full piece from start to finish until the premiere, the piece received standing ovations and overwhelming critical acclaim, rewarding Jamison with great fame and recognition throughout the dance world. Today, Cry remains a crowd favorite and is still featured in the company's repertoire.

Throughout her years with Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, Jamison continued to perform all over the world. Along with her work with Ailey's company, she also appeared as a guest artist with the Cullberg Ballet, Swedish Royal Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, and numerous other companies. She danced alongside many renowned dancers, including the ballet legend Mikhail Baryshnikov, in a duet entitled Pas de Duke, choreographed by Alvin Ailey in 1976.[7] Finally, in 1980, she left Ailey's company to perform in the Broadway musical, Sophisticated Ladies. It was Jamison's first stage experience outside the realm of concert dance, and she admits it was initially very challenging for her. It was a completely different performance atmosphere and required a variety of new skills.

The Jamison Project

In addition to performing, Jamison wanted the opportunity to explore working with her own group of dancers. She began teaching master classes at Jacob's Pillow in 1981 and soon began choreographing her own works. She later formed The Jamison Project with a group of dancers with a strong desire to work and learn. The Project premiered on November 15, 1988 at the Joyce Theater in New York City, performing works such as Divining, Time Out, and Tease. Jamison later invited guest choreographers, including Garth Fagan, to set work for the company.

Return to Alvin Ailey Dance Theater

In 1988, Jamison returned to Alvin Ailey Dance Theater as an artistic associate. Upon Ailey's death, on December 1, 1989, she assumed the role of artistic director and dedicated the next 21 years of her life to the company's success.[8] Alvin Ailey Dance Theater continued to thrive as Jamison continued to rehearse and restage classics from the company's repertory, as well as commission distinguished choreographers to create new works for the dancers. Jamison also continued to choreograph, and created dances such as Forgotten Time, Hymn, Love Stories, and Among Us for the company. In July 2011, Jamison transitioned into the role of Artistic Director Emerita and appointed Robert Battle to the position of Artistic Director Designate.

Personal life

Judith Jamison was married briefly to Miguel Goudrou, a dancer with the Alvin Ailery Dance Theater, from 1972 to 1974, when the marriage was annulled.[9]

Choreography by Jamison

  • Divining (1984)
  • Forgotten Time (1989)
  • Rift (1991)
  • Hymn (a tribute to Alvin Ailey) (1993)
  • Riverside (1995)
  • Sweet Release (1996)
  • Echo: Far From Home (1998)
  • Double Exposure (2000)
  • Here...Now (2001)
  • Love Stories (in collaboration with Robert Battle and Rennie Harris) (2004)
  • Reminiscin' (2005)
  • Among Us (Private Spaces: Public Places) (2009)


  • Dancing Spirit, Jamison's autobiography, was published by Doubleday in 1993.


  • Candace Award, Arts, National Coalition of 100 Black Women (1990)[10]
  • Youngest person ever to receive The Dance USA Award (1998)
  • New York State Governor's Arts Award (1998)
  • Kennedy Center Honors for her contribution to American culture through dance (1999)
  • A prime time Emmy Award and an American Choreography Award for her work on the PBS Documentary "A Hymn for Alvin Ailey" (1999)
  • National Medal of Arts (2001)
  • Honored by the National Theater of Ghana (2002)
  • The Paul Robeson Award from the Actors' Equity Association (2004)
  • Bessie Award for her commitment to development in dance and the arts (2007)
  • The BET Honors Award – a tribute to the achievement of leading African Americans (2009)
  • Listed in the TIME 100: The World's Most Influential People (2009)
  • Congressional Black Caucus' Phoenix Award (2010)
  • The Handel Medallion (2010)
  • BET Black Girls Rock - Living Legend Award (2018)


  1. ^ a b c Daniels, Mary (July 19, 1987). "Jamison: On Her Toes in the Kitchen". Chicago Tribune.
  2. ^ "Judith Jamison". History Makers Online. August 30, 2016. Retrieved January 6, 2019.
  3. ^ a b DeFrantz, Thomas (November 11, 2011). "Great Performances: Judith Jamison, Free To Dance".
  4. ^ a b c d Jamison, Judith (1993). Dancing Spirit. New York: Doubleday. ISBN 978-0385425575.
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2015-05-09. Retrieved 2017-09-02.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ "Repertory: Cry". Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation. Retrieved November 8, 2011.
  7. ^ Long, Richard A. (1989). The Black Tradition in American Dance. New York: Rizzoli International. ISBN 978-0847810925.
  8. ^ "Judith Jamison". Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation. Retrieved November 8, 2011.
  9. ^ Dunning, Jennifer (September 2, 1996). "Miguel Godreau, a Lead Dancer With Alvin Ailey, Dies at 49". New York Times. Retrieved January 6, 2019.
  10. ^ "CANDACE AWARD RECIPIENTS 1982-1990, Page 2". National Coalition of 100 Black Women. Archived from the original on March 14, 2003.

Further reading

  • Ailey, Alvin (1995). Revelations: The Autobiography of Alvin Ailey. New York: Birch Lane Press. ISBN 978-1559722551.
  • Mara, Thalia (1977). To Dance, To Live. New York: Dance Horizons. ISBN 978-0871270856.
  • Repertory: Cry, Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation, retrieved November 8, 2011
  • Siegel, Marcia B. (1977). Watching the Dance Go By. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 978-0395251737.

External links

35th Tony Awards

The 35th Annual Tony Awards was broadcast by CBS television on June 7, 1981, from the Mark Hellinger Theatre. The hosts were Ellen Burstyn and Richard Chamberlain. The theme was "Women's Achievements in the Theatre."

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AAADT) is a modern dance company based in New York, New York. It was founded in 1958 by choreographer and dancer Alvin Ailey. It is made up of 32 dancers, led by artistic director Robert Battle and associate artistic director Masazumi Chaya.

Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation of New York City in the United States is a private foundation with five core areas of interest, and endowed with wealth accumulated by Andrew W. Mellon of the Mellon family of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It is the product of the 1969 merger of the Avalon Foundation and the Old Dominion Foundation. These foundations were set up separately by Paul Mellon and Ailsa Mellon Bruce, the children of Andrew W. Mellon. It is housed in the expanded former offices of the Bollingen Foundation in New York City, another educational philanthropy supported by Paul Mellon. Elizabeth Alexander is the Foundation's president. Her predecessors have included Earl Lewis, Don Randel, William G. Bowen, John Edward Sawyer, and Nathan Pusey. In 2004, the Foundation was awarded the National Medal of Arts.

Bat-Dor Dance Company

Bat-Dor was an Israeli dance company based in Tel Aviv, Israel, co-founded by Baroness Bethsabée de Rothschild (Batsheva) and dancer Jeannette Ordman.

Candace Award

From 1982 to 1992, the National Coalition of 100 Black Women bestowed the Candace Award on "Black role models of uncommon distinction who have set a standard of excellence for young people of all races". Candace (pronounced can-DAY-say) was the ancient Ethiopian title for queen or empress. The awards ceremony was held each year at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Fred Fehl

Fred Fehl (January 21, 1906 – October 5, 1995) was an American photographer of Viennese birth and upbringing. He was the cousin of the art historian Philipp Fehl and the inventor and Electrical Engineer Paul Eisler.

Fehl escaped from Vienna in 1939 with the assistance of the company he worked for, went to briefly to London, and then to New York City. The first person in America to make a career of performance photography, for over forty years he covered Broadway as well as dance, opera, and music. He was the permanent photographer of the American Ballet Theatre, the New York City Opera, and the New York City Ballet. His pictures have appeared in the New York Times, major national magazines, and in hundreds of books on theater, dance, and music.

Fehl took photographs of over 1,000 Broadway plays. Included are photographs of Shirley Booth, José Ferrer, Judith Anderson, Maurice Evans, Lilli Palmer, Melvyn Douglas, Louis Calhern, Celeste Holm, Helen Hayes, Henry Fonda, Claude Rains, Beatrice Lillie, Rex Harrison, Ethel Merman, Charles Boyer, John Garfield, Ezio Pinza, Mary Martin, Arlene Francis, Eddie Cantor, Gwen Verdon, and Marlon Brando.

In addition to the American Ballet Theater and the New York City Ballet, Fred Fehl photographed the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, the Joffrey Company, Martha Graham, and the Alvin Ailey Company.

His numerous dance photographs include Martha Graham, Vera Zorina, André Eglevsky, Rudolf Nureyev, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Suzanne Farrell, Peter Martins, Heather Watts, Darci Kistler, Barbara Fisher, Kyra Nichols, Alicia Markova, Erik Bruhn, Carla Fracci, Natalia Makarova, Judith Jamison, Violette Verdy, Allegra Kent, Patricia McBride, José Limón, Dame Margot Fonteyn, Agnes de Mille, Anton Dolin, Alexandra Danilova, Maria Tallchief, Lupe Serrano, Tanaquil LeClercq, Jillana, Diana Adams, Rosella Hightower, Gelsey Kirkland, Cynthia Gregory, Karin von Aroldingen, Kay Mazzo, Fernando Bujones, Jacques d'Amboise, Edward Villella, Alicia Alonso, and many others.

Fehl's opera photographs include the New York City Opera, the San Carlo Opera, Alexander, Igor Kipnis, Margaret Severn, Roberta Peters, Norman Treigle, Judith Raskin, Dame Joan Sutherland, and Beverly Sills.

He photographed the New York Philharmonic Concerts at Lewisohn Stadium. His photographs of conductors and musicians includes Eugene Ormandy, Dmitri Mitropolous, John Browning, André Watts, Alesander Brailowsky, Eugene List, Lorin Maazel, Andre Kostelanez, Igor Markevitch, Lukas Foss, Bruno Walter, Arturo Toscanini, Julius Rudel, and Leopold Stokowski.

The Harry Ransom Center and the New York Public Library hold many Fred Fehl photographs and books.

Henry Z. Steinway

Henry Ziegler Steinway (August 23, 1915 – September 18, 2008) was the last member of the Steinway family to be president of the piano company Steinway & Sons.

History of African Americans in Philadelphia

This article documents the history of the African-Americans in Philadelphia.

Recent 2017 estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau put the total number of people living in Philadelphia who identify as Black or African-American at 689,927, comprising 43.6% of the total population of the city.

Jamison (surname)

Jamison is a Scottish or northern Irish name, literally meaning "son of James", and found as both a male given name and a surname. As the latter, it may refer to:

Antawn Jamison, American basketball player

Bud Jamison, American film actor.

Brandon Jamison, American football linebacker

Herbert Jamison, American athlete

John Jameson, Scottish businessman and founder of Jameson Irish Whiskey

Sir John Jamison, Ulster-Scots Knight, doctor of medicine, and pioneer Australian land owner

Jimi Jamison (1951–2014), American singer-songwriter, frontman of the rock band Survivor

Joniece Jamison, American singer and backing vocalist

Judith Jamison, Dancer, Ailven Ailey Dance Company

Kay Redfield Jamison, American psychologist and psychiatry professor

Linda and Terry Jamison, "psychic twins"

Matt Jamison

Nora Jamison

Norm Jamison, Canadian politician

Thomas Jamison, Ulster-Scots naval surgeon, First Fleet settler and a Surgeon-General of New South Wales, Australia

Vontrell Jamison, American football player

John A. Ruthven

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Lesley Ann Patten

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Lewis Manilow

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Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival

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In 2007, the festival was awarded the National Medal of Arts, the nation’s most prestigious arts award.

Masazumi Chaya

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Ming Cho Lee

Ming Cho Lee (Chinese: 李名覺; pinyin: Lĭ Míngjué; born October 3, 1930 in Shanghai, China) is a Chinese American theatrical set designer and professor at the Yale School of Drama.

Paul Robeson Award

An award bestowed by the Paul Robeson Citation Award Committee of the Actors' Equity Association.

Renee Robinson

Renee Robinson is a retired American dancer from Washington, D.C., who performed as a Principal Dancer of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. She began her dance training in classical ballet at the Jones-Haywood School of Ballet. She also attended the School of American Ballet, the Dance Theatre of Harlem and The Ailey School. Robinson was a member of the Alvin Ailey II before becoming a member of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1981.Before joining AAADT, Robinson was a student at New York University, majoring in dance and minoring in economics. She was torn between becoming a professional dancer or an attorney specializing in the arts.She has worked with many renowned choreographers, such as Alvin Ailey, Lar Lubovitch, Donald McKayle, Judith Jamison, Ulysses Dove, Jerome Robbins, Bill T. Jones, Garth Fagan, Katherine Dunham, Hans van Manen and Carmen de Lavallade.

Robinson has also performed at the televised Kennedy Center Awards. Other televised appearances include performing at President Clinton’s first inauguration, American Express advertisements, the Bill Cosby Special on Alvin Ailey and on the PBS special “A Hymn for Alvin Ailey”. In 2003, she performed at the White House State Dinner in honor of the President of Kenya, Mwai Kibaki. In 2008, while performing in the East Room of the White House during the first dance event hosted by Michelle Obama, Robinson hit one of the chandeliers while performing.In their 2006 season, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will celebrate Robinson's 25th year with the company; her tenure is the longest of any female dancer in the company's history. Upon her retirement (with her final performance with the company on 9 December 2012 ), she was the last company member to have worked with its founder, Alvin Ailey, as well as being the only dancer to have performed with all three of the company's artistic directors (inclusive of Artistic Director Emeritus Judith Jamison and Jamison's successor, Robert Battle).

Sophisticated Ladies

Sophisticated Ladies is a musical revue based on the music of Duke Ellington. The musical ran on Broadway in 1981.

The BET Honors

The BET Honors were established in 2008 by the Black Entertainment Television network to grace the lives and achievements of African-American luminaries. The awards will be presented annually and broadcast on BET during Black History Month.

Awards for Judith Jamison
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