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Judith Jamison is one of the most important cultural icons of our time.

If dance is really a form of expression, then Jamison’s work has expressed volumes about the African-American experience, in a unique and lasting way.

Judith Jamison is a classically trained dancer, who rose through the narrow ranks of the American dance society. Her masterful grasp on the ballet, tap, jazz and modern techniques granted her a much coveted position in the American Ballet Theatre in 1964. She honed her talent and flourished as a member of the prestigious ABT company, enabling her to gain a position in the Ailey company only a year later.

In 1965 Jamison joined the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and danced with the company for 15 years to great acclaim. It was in this capacity that Jamison found her niche as a performer. She demonstrated a profound talent, rivaled only by her unique understanding of the emotions exemplified by the Ailey choreography which features concepts central to the Afro-American experience. She thrived as a dancer and was mentored by Alvin Ailey himself.

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In December of 1989, Jamison was appointed Artistic Director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. If the seed for the most successful and acclaimed black-owned dance theater was planted by Alvin Ailey, then it was definitely nurtured to perfection under the watchful eyes of Judith Jamison. Some of the most memorable performances in the Ailey performance canon were choreographed and/or performed by Judith Jamison. She will forever be lauded for her powerful artistic influence in the Ailey company, as well as in the broader dance community.

Read more about Judith Jamison and her contributions to African-American culture here.

Watch some of Jamison’s legendary choreography below!

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