Director Jamila Wignot Dives Deep Into the Life and Career of Alvin Ailey | Playbill

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News Director Jamila Wignot Dives Deep Into the Life and Career of Alvin Ailey The prominent choreographer and founder of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is the subject of the new documentary Ailey.

“Dance is for everybody. I believe that dance came from the people and should be delivered back to the people.” —Alvin Ailey

Legendary choreographer, director, dancer, and activist Alvin Ailey, well-known for crafting stories and messages onstage through his company Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AAADT), now becomes the subject as the camera turns to focus on him.

Ailey, the upcoming documentary directed by Jamila Wignot, released in New York July 23 after premiering at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival and will release nationwide August 6. The film follows the career and life of the visionary, from his early days in Texas to his untimely death in 1989. For the decades he led the premiere company, he choreographed pieces that became classics, including Blues Suite, Cry, and Revelations. While he would often tap into his own specific memories and Southern roots for his pieces, the impact was universal.

"The Ailey company has gone on to perform for an estimated 25 million people at theaters in 48 states and 71 countries on six continents," notes AAADT's website. "Today, the Company continues Mr. Ailey's mission by presenting important works of the past and commissioning new ones. In all, more than 235 works by over 90 choreographers have been part of the Ailey company’s repertory."

Even the most passionate fans will learn something new from this intimate portrait of the human behind the genius. Playbill’s Felicia Fitzpatrick spoke with Wignot about developing the multidimensional story of Ailey, diving into archival dance footage, choosing her favorite Ailey piece, and more.

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