Apropos of its long partnership with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, on Sunday, August 1, 2021, at 7:30 p.m. The Music Center will present an advance screening of a NEON release of Director/Filmmaker Jamila Wignot’s new documentary, AILEY. Ailey, founder of the world acclaimed company, began his dance career here in Los Angeles performing with Lester Horton’s Dance Theater of Los Angeles, one of the first racially-integrated dance companies in the United States. Taking place at the Jerry Moss Plaza, tickets to this event are free, but guests must register in advance at musiccenter.org/aileyfilm. Attendance is limited to the first 400 registrants. See the official trailer below.

Jamila Wignot - Photo courtesy of The Music Center

Jamila Wignot – Photo courtesy of The Music Center

The evening will begin with a pre-screening talk with Director Jamila Wignot hosted by Los Angeles Times dance writer Makeda Easter during which Wignot. In AILEY, New York based Director Wignot “weaves together a resonant biography of an elusive visionary told through Ailey’s own words and features evocative archival footage and interviews with those who intimately knew him”. Wignot’s directing work includes two episodes of the Peabody, Emmy® and NAACP award-winning series The African-Americans: Many Rivers to Cross (PBS), hosted by Henry Louis Gates and chronicling the five hundred year history of African Americans; Town Hall (co-directed with Sierra Pettingill), a feature-length co-production with ITVS following Tea Party activists determined to unseat Barack Obama; and, for PBS’s American Experience series, the Peabody Award-winning Triangle Fire and Emmy®-nominated Walt Whitman.

Makeda Easter is an award-winning journalist who joined the Los Angeles Times in 2016. While covering the intersection of the arts and identity, she’s written about street dance activists who use Black social dances to fight racism, a Native playwright whose most successful work skewers white wokeness, and the impact of COVID-19 on artists who are incarcerated. A project she led on dance influencers won an Online Journalism Award in 2020. Makeda became interested in journalism while working as a science writer for a university supercomputing center. She received her bachelor’s degree in science, technology and international affairs at Georgetown University.

Alvin Ailey was born on January 5, 1931, in Rogers, Texas. Living in the rural south during that era would later inspire some of his most memorable works. After relocating to Los Angeles, Ailey was introduced to dance attending performances of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and the Katherine Dunham Dance Company. His formal dance training began with an introduction to Lester Horton’s classes by his friend Carmen de Lavallade and both would go on to perform in Horton’s Dance Theater of Los Angeles along with LA’s own Bella Lewitzky. Among those renowned dancers who trained with Lester Horton included Eleanor Brooks, Janet Collins, Rudi Gernreich, James Mitchell, Joyce Trisler, and James Truitte.

After Horton’s death in 1953, Ailey became director of the Lester Horton Dance Theater where he began to choreograph his own works. Later, once he relocated to New York City, Ailey performed in four Broadway shows, including House of Flowers and Jamaica, and founded Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1958. He established the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center (now The Ailey School) in 1969 and formed the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble (now Ailey II) in 1974. Mr. Ailey was a pioneer of programs promoting arts in education, particularly those benefiting underserved communities. A few of his many distinguished awards included the Kennedy Center Honor in 1988 in recognition of his extraordinary contribution to American culture, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the country’s highest civilian honor, in recognition of his contributions and commitment to civil rights and dance in America.

Alvin Ailey's "Revelations" - Still from AILEY - Courtesy of NEON

Alvin Ailey’s “Revelations” – Still from AILEY – Courtesy of NEON

Following Ailey’s death on December 1, 1989, The New York Times said of him, “you didn’t need to have known [him] personally to have been touched by his humanity, enthusiasm, and exuberance and his courageous stand for multi-racial brotherhood.”


WHAT: A free screening of the new film AILEY on Sunday, August 1, 2021, in advance of the film’s nationwide opening on August 6, 2021. AILEY is a NEON released film directed by Jamila Wignot and produced by Insignia Films, AILEY chronicles the life of the artist, icon and activist and was an official selection of the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year.

AILEY traces the full contours of this brilliant and enigmatic man whose search for the truth in movement resulted in enduring choreography that centers on the Black American experience with grace, strength and unparalleled beauty.

WHEN:   Sunday, August 1, 2021 @ 7:30 p.m. Film Introduction with Jamila Wignot & Makeda Easter. Film screening begins @ 8:00 p.m.

WHERE: Jerry Moss Plaza at The Music Center, 135 N. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012.

TICKETS are free, but guests must register in advance at musiccenter.org/aileyfilm. Attendance is limited to the first 400 registrants.

TO ATTEND:  This is a free event open to all ages. No outside alcohol is permitted at the AILEY screening. For a list of prohibited items, please click HERE for The Music Center. Masks are recommended outdoors for those not fully vaccinated. Please visit musiccenter.org/safety for information about The Music Center’s safety and security measures.

For more information please click HERE.

To visit the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater website, click HERE.

To visit The Music Center website, click HERE.

Written and compiled by Jeff Slayton from a July 21, 2021 Music Center press release.

Featured image: Alvin Ailey – Still from film titled AILEY Directed by Jamila Wignot – Courtesy of NEON