Judith Jamison - American dancer, Choreographer and Artistic Director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater - is a legendary icon in the world of the performing arts. Ms. Jamison, who as a dancer with the troupe, from 1965 to 1980, became the most stellar of modern dance's female performers, was appointed Artistic Director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in December 1989 at the request of her mentor, Alvin Ailey, who personally chose her to succeed him before his untimely death. In her two decades at the helm of one of the most respected dance companies in America, Ms. Jamison has successfully kept the Alvin Ailey brand alive. In 2009, Ms. Jamison was listed in the TIME 100: The World’s Most Influential People, and honored at "The BET Honors," an event that recognizes the lives and achievements of leading African-American luminaries.
Judith Jamison was the main honoree at the recent White House ceremony honoring dance and ballet hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama. "For years, I have gone to watch Judith's company wherever and whenever I can," said Michelle Obama. View a video of the First Lady's full remarks honoring Judith Jamison (fast forward to 3:50).
WATCH Diva of Dance: Judith Jamison's Amazing Career where CNN's Fredricka Whitfield talks to Jamison about her amazing career and what's next.
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An Icon In the Dance World
Judith Jamison joined Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1965 and 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. As 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 bigger place," the permanent home for the Ailey company, was realized and named after beloved chairwoman 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.