Anyone who has followed the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater since the mid-1960s is well aware of the legendary Judith Jamison who joined the company in 1965. Ailey created many of his most memorable works for Jamison, including the extraordinary solo Cry. Jamison struck out on her own during the 1970s and ‘80s performing as guest artist with companies internationally, starring in Broadway’s major hit musical Sophisticated Ladies and forming her own company, The Jamison Project. When Ailey became ill in 1989, he asked Jamison to succeed him as Artistic Director. She said yes and for 21 years led the company to soaring heights including two monumental engagements in South Africa and a 50th Anniversary celebration tour that included performances in 50 global cities. Jamison currently serves as Artistic Director Emerita at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Jamison’s awards are numerous and it is no surprise to anyone in the dance field that on Wednesday, May 18, 2022, she will be awarded the National Arts Club Medal of Honor for her outstanding achievements in dance. Among her many other accolades are the primetime Emmy Award, an American Choreography Award, the Kennedy Center Honor, a National Medal of Arts, a “Bessie” Award, the Phoenix Award, and the Handel Medallion. She was also listed in “TIME 100: The World’s Most Influential People” and honored by First Lady Michelle Obama at the first White House Dance Series event. In 2015, she became the 50th inductee into the Hall of Fame at the National Museum of Dance.

Judith Jamison in Alvin Ailey's "Cry"

Judith Jamison in Alvin Ailey’s “Cry”

“Judith Jamison has inspired generations of dancers during her career, first as a dancer herself, followed by her continued role of choreographer and artistic director” said Alice Palmisano, president of the NAC. “It is our honor to celebrate someone so renowned in the world of dance.”

“I’m very grateful to be honored by the National Arts Club, a superb organization that shares the power of the arts with so many,” stated Jamison. “It’s been a privilege to advance Mr. Ailey’s legacy of inspiring artistry that uses dance and the African American cultural expression and experience in a universal celebration of the human spirit. Now under the leadership of Robert Battle, the Company continues to entertain, enlighten and unite audiences around the world thanks to the vision, genius and generosity of one man–Alvin Ailey.”

On May 18th, the Medal of Honor will be presented to Jamison during a dinner and reception at the historic landmark NAC clubhouse in Gramercy Park. Those paying homage to this amazing dance artist include Robert Battle, Artistic Director of Alvin Ailey; Masazumi Chaya, former Associate Director of Alvin Ailey; Camille A. Brown, choreographer, dancer, and dance educator; and Anna Deavere Smith, an actress and playwright who had the great pleasure of writing the libretto for Jamison’s ballet, Hymn, and a recipient of the NAC’s Kesselring Prize for Playwriting.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is recognized by U.S. Congressional resolution as a vital American “Cultural Ambassador to the World” and celebrates the African-American experience and the American modern dance tradition.

To read Judith Jamison’s full bio, please click HERE.

To learn more about the National Arts Club, please visit their WEBSITE.

To learn more about the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, please visit their WEBSITE.

Written by Jeff Slayton for LA Dance Chronicle with information provided by press releases.

Featured image:  Judith Jamison – Photo by Andrew Eccles