Feature: Judith Jamison3

Friday 7 April 2006

Alvin Ailey died in 1989 . . . . and you’ve been at the helm for twelve years. How easy has it been to continue the precedent set by him, and has the company changed course at all in this time?
I agreed with what he did because I’d danced with him for fifteen years. I can’t fix what isn’t broken. It works. We have 180 ballets – I wish we could carry them all, all the time, and we have 31 dancers. I travel with 50 people. We don’t use station wagons anymore to go around like we did years ago, we use planes! My generation was buses. We didn’t have four other entities under the umbrella of Alvin Ailey. For 26 years now there’s been a junior company, we have the School and Arts and Education, which we were doing before it became so famous to do it. As a matter of a fact the last Arts and Education we did was in South Africa – we do it all over. I did it years ago and we’re doing some here. It’s always been important, it was important to him. We have stayed attached to the community so that hasn’t changed. . .it’s just billowed! He planted a seed, he choreographed these wonderful works and he let his peers choreograph works. There were no modern dance companies then with repertory. Everybody was a one line song. But Alvin said no.
The branches of the tree have simply grown and I’m in charge of those branches and making sure that I can see over that horizon. It’s so exciting. We are working on a DVD and dying to do things on the internet. And I have a new building coming up in 2004 that will accommodate this living institution.
What relevance does the internet have to a profession governed by physical movement?
I think the web is excellent in that it is the biggest tease of all time. It’s gonna get you into the theatre! I mean the technology I have in my head for webs is that I can see it in three dimension. I can do ‘that’ and make the dancer’s arm go like ‘this’. That’s where I am, I know that’s coming. I think the web is an excellent place to tease you into the ‘aliveness’ of dance.

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