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Alvin Ailey: A Life In Dance by Jennifer…

Alvin Ailey: A Life In Dance

by Jennifer Dunning

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0201626071, Hardcover)

The great African-American choreographer Alvin Ailey created breathtaking modern dances,which changed the boundaries of the art form, and founded a school and a dance company to maintain the tradition. In this sensitive but searing biography, Jennifer Dunning, a dance critic with the New York Times, reveals the terrible personal pain that Ailey hid from his public. The life of a dancer and choreographer makes enormous physical demands, and the kind of adulation Ailey received as a young man takes a toll on the spirit. Ailey, a manic depressive full of self-doubt, retreated to alcohol, drugs, and promiscuity for self-affirmation off the stage. He lived a life of awful self-destruction, and then died of AIDS-related causes at age 58. Dunning captures the greatness and the agony of Ailey's creative spirit.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:28 -0400)

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Ailey's story is the stuff of legend. His "Revelations," one of the great American dance classics, is said to have been seen by more people than any other work in dance history. Yet the small-town culture that is at the heart of his finest work was absorbed by a child growing up in devastating poverty, neglected by a loving but exhausted mother who raised him alone. Aware of his homosexuality from his teens, Ailey lived and worked in the unusually accepting world of the theater but sometimes hid his sexuality as if he had never left his conservative family and Southern church. An athlete in his youth and a member of a profession that idealizes physical perfection, Ailey abused his body with alcohol and, later, drugs. Surrounded by admiring friends, he felt alone.Yet against great odds, Ailey pulled the pieces of this life together to create a passionate mosaic of art and dance, giving birth to an indispensable institution that continues to play a joyous, vibrant role throughout the world. Dunning shows us how Ailey took the essence of his experiences - whether from the driving rhythmic music that poured from the local Dew Drop Inn on hot Saturday nights, or the simple motion of men beating the water to drive back snakes during his baptism - and translated them into masterpieces.. Filled with stunning photographs and hundreds of interviews with those who knew him (including such stars of dance and theater as Mikhail Baryshnikov, Judith Jamison, Lena Horne, Katherine Dunham, Sidney Poitier, and Dustin Hoffman), Alvin Ailey is the story of a man who wove his life and his culture into his dance - and into the fabric of America itself.… (more)

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