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'Alvin Ailey' Celebrates 50 Years Of Magic

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'Alvin Ailey' Celebrates 50 Years Of Magic

Performing Arts

'Alvin Ailey' Celebrates 50 Years Of Magic

'Alvin Ailey' Celebrates 50 Years Of Magic

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/92129671/92129664" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Judith Jamison Andrew Eccles hide caption

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Andrew Eccles

Fifty years since opening its doors, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York has become a staple of American choreography and culture.

Judith Jamison is the company's artistic director. She joined the dance group at a time when the world of professional dance was largely closed to African-Americans. Following the death of founder Alvin Ailey in 1989, which rocked the arts community, Jamison swiftly answered the call to carry on the torch of her esteemed mentor.

"He passed away Dec. 1, 1989," Jamison remembers. "What was I supposed to do? There was no time for question[s]."

The program recently paid a visit to the company's Manhattan studios, where Jamison talked about preparing for retirement, her undying love for dance and sustaining the vision of Alvin Ailey.