Director Jamila Wignot’s Ailey, about the late visionary who founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, opens in New York July 23. Watch the trailer above.
The documentary, which premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, will expand nationwide August 6.
Wignot evokes Ailey’s memories through archival footage and audio recordings. Also featured are interviews with company dancers and choreographers, who give insight into Ailey’s process and legacy. Among those included are Robert Battle, Rennie Harris, Darrin Ross, Don Martin, Mary Barnett, Linda Kent, George Faison, Judith Jamison, Bill Hammond, Sylvia Waters, Hope Clark, Sarita Allen, Masazumi Chaya, and Bill T. Jones.
Director Wignot says, "Nothing prepares you for the experience of Ailey—the emotional, spiritual, aural, and visual overwhelm the senses. As a filmmaker, I am drawn to stories about artists like Alvin Ailey—innovators who tenaciously follow their own voice and in doing redefined their chosen forms. Ailey’s dances—celebrations of African American beauty and history—did more than move bodies; they opened minds. His dances were revolutionary social statements that staked a claim as powerful in his own time as in ours: Black life is central to the American story and deserves a central place in American art and on the world stage. A working-class, gay, Black man, he rose to prominence in a society that made every effort to exclude him. He transformed the world of dance and made space for those of us on the margins—space for black artists like Rennie Harris and me."
(Updated July 23, 2021)