This past Sunday marked the Alvin Ailey American Dance Company’s final New York performance with the legendary Judith Jamison serving as Artistic Director.

A native of Philadelphia, Jamison began dancing at only ten years old, and later attended Fisk University and the Philadelphia Dance Company. She joined Ailey’s company under the direction of the late choreographer in 1965, becoming a principal dancer (and Ailey muse) shortly thereafter. Jamison departed in 1980 to star in the Broadway musical, Sophisticated Ladies, based on the music of Duke Ellington. She was selected by Ailey to replace himself as Artistic Director for the company and did so following his death in 1989.

Jamison, who will be replaced by choreographer Robert Battle, was honored by the White House last October; First Lady Michele Obama spoke of bringing her daughters to see Jamison as often as she could because “(I) want them to see Judith’s gifts on display, because I want them to witness the grace and the beauty that stirs our souls and connects us to each other like nothing else can.” Jamison’s awards include the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors in 1999 and a National Medal of Arts in 2001. She received both an Emmy and an American Choreography Award for the PBS Great Performances: Dance In America special “A Hymn for Alvin Ailey” (1998).

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