Mel Tomlinson and Alvin Ailey

Click to see Ailey in Tomlinson’s orbit

Mel Tomlinson was a dancer who was never satisfied. After a few years of dancing with Dance Theatre of Harlem, Tomlinson wanted a new challenge and decided to leave the company. Several days later, while taking class at Alvin Ailey’s school, Ailey asked Tomlinson if he’d like to join his company now that he’d left DTH. According to the New York Amsterdam News, Tomlinson was initially shocked and had to think it over, “‘but in five minutes I was signing the contracts.’” In Tomlinson, Ailey saw a new partner for Judith Jamison. Tomlinson credits Alvin Ailey for bringing modern back into his life and loosening him up a bit after years of ballet discipline. Thanks to Ailey, Tomlinson found “the total joy of movement.”

Alvin Ailey in 1955.
Alvin Ailey in 1955. Credit: Wikipedia (photographed by Carl Van Vechten).

More about Alvin Ailey

Alvin Ailey (January 5, 1931 – December 1, 1989) was an African-American dancer, director, choreographer, and activist who founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AAADT). He created AAADT and its affiliated Ailey School as havens for nurturing Black artists and expressing the universality of the African American experience through dance. His work fused theatre, modern dance, ballet, and jazz with Black vernacular, creating hope-fueled choreography that continues to spread global awareness of Black life in America. Ailey’s choreographic masterpiece Revelations is recognized as one of the most popular and most performed ballets in the world. In this work he blended primitive, modern and jazz elements of dance with a concern for Black rural America. On July 15, 2008, the US Congress passed a resolution designating AAADT a “vital American cultural ambassador to the World.” That same year, in recognition of AAADT’s 50th anniversary, then Mayor Michael Bloomberg declared December 4 “Alvin Ailey Day” in New York City while then Governor David Paterson honored the organization on behalf of New York State.


Alvin Ailey, Wikipedia


Casey Monteiro

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