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3 Reasons We're Ecstatic That Alvin Ailey's Life and Work Are Being Made into a Movie

Alvin Ailey's life and groundbreaking work are coming to the big screen. Photo courtesy Ailey Archives.

There must be something in the water: Last week, we announced that Madonna is directing Michaela DePrince's upcoming biopic. And yesterday, we got wind of another major dance film: According to The Hollywood Reporter, Fox Searchlight has sealed the deal to make Ailey Ailey's life and work into a movie. Yes, please.

While some movies falter along their way to the big screen, we think this one's got legs (and hopefully a whole lot of lateral T's and hinges and coccyx balances, too). Why?


Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Sean Aaron Carmon in Ailey's Revelations. Photo by EricGrayPhotography.com, Courtesy AAADT.

1. High-profile songstress and all-around goddess Alicia Keys is one of the film's producers.

2. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is on board. The Hollywood Reporter specifically mentioned that artistic director Robert Battle and artistic director emerita Judith Jamison will be part of the process.

Robert Battle and Judith Jamison will work closely with the movie's producers. Photo by Christopher Duggan.

3. The history should be on point. Fox Searchlight has secured the rights to Jennifer Dunning's biography Alvin Ailey: A Life in Dance.

And it goes without saying that the dance scenes will amazingly fierce and likely full of current Ailey dancers. Still, it's too early to know exactly what the film will look like: Will it be a dramatized version of the late choreographer's life? A documentary laced with archival footage and commentary from Ailey experts?

In a statement, Battle expressed his excitement for the project, saying, "We are thrilled to be working with these incredible partners to bring to the screen the amazing journey and revolutionary choreography of Alvin Ailey, whose life and legacy profoundly impacted people of all backgrounds around the world."

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater's Linda Celeste Sims in Ailey's rousing Cry (1971). Photo by Christopher Duggan.

We're thrilled too. What choreography do you hope to see most in the movie? (We're dying for a fiery Cry and some soulful snippets of Revelations.) Tell us in the comments.

News
Photo by Gabriel Davalos, Courtesy Valdés

For decades the name Alicia Alonso has been virtually synonymous with Ballet Nacional de Cuba, the company she co-founded in Havana in 1948. Alonso died on October 17, just shy of what would have been her 99th birthday. In recent years, she had stepped back from day-to-day decision-making in the company. As if preparing for the future, in January, the company's leading ballerina, 42-year-old Viengsay Valdés, was named deputy director, a job that seems to encompass most of the responsibilities of a traditional director. Now, presumably, she will step into her new role as director of the company. Her debut as curator of the repertory comes in November, when the troupe will perform three mixed bills selected by her at the Gran Teatro de la Habana Alicia Alonso. The following has been translated from a conversation conducted in Spanish, Valdés' native tongue.

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Left: Hurricane Harvey damage in Houston Ballet's Dance Lab; Courtesy Harlequin. Right: The Dance Lab pre-Harvey; Nic Lehoux, Courtesy Houston Ballet.

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"I said, 'I can't. My body won't,' " she says. "He told me, 'Yes, it will.' "

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Alicia Alonso with Igor Youskevitch. Sedge Leblang, Courtesy Dance Magazine Archives.

Her Dying Swan was as fragile as her Juliet was rebellious; her Odile, scheming, her Swanilda, insouciant. Her Belle was joyous, and her Carmen, both brooding and full-blooded. But there was one role in particular that prompted dance critic Arnold Haskell to ask, "How do you interpret Giselle when you are Giselle?"

At eight, Alicia Alonso took her first ballet class on a stage in her native Cuba, wearing street clothes. Fifteen years later, put in for an ailing Alicia Markova in a performance of Giselle with Ballet Theatre, she staked her claim to that title role.

Alonso received recognition throughout the world for her flawless technique and her ability to become one with the characters she danced, even after she became nearly blind. After a career in New York, she and her then husband Fernando Alonso established the Cuban National Ballet and the Cuban National Ballet School, both of which grew into major international dance powerhouses and beloved institutions in their home country. On October 17, the company announced that, after leading the company for a remarkable 71 years, Alonso died from cardiovascular disease at the age of 98.

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