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Pic of the Week: Happy Birthday Alvin Ailey Edition

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Jack Mitchell, photographer. Lester Horton Dance Theater members (left to right): James Truitte, Joyce Trisler, Alvin Ailey, and Lelia Goldoni in Ailey’s first choreographic work, According to St. Francis, 1954. Lester Horton Dance Theater Collection, Music Division, Library of Congress. Photograph © Jack Mitchell (001.00.00) Digital ID #aa0001.jpg 

The following is a guest post by Denise Gallo, Head of Acquisitions and Processing.

Many people may be under the misconception that the Music Division only collects music. Despite our division’s title, the name of our reading room, Performing Arts, actually describes our holdings far more accurately. So, in addition to music, we also boast amazing collections that document theater and dance. Today is perfect to herald one of our most prized dance collections, the archives of the Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation. You can see highlights from this collection in the online exhibit, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater: 50 Years Cultural Ambassador to the World.

Born January 5, 1931, Alvin Ailey is celebrated as both a brilliant choreographer of modern dance and as an activist who promoted and ensured the presence of African-American dancers both in the United States and around the world. He became serious about dance when he met Lester Horton, another pioneer of American modern dance (and another dance icon whose collection is in our custodial care). Ailey went on to form his own company, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Today, 125 boxes of archival materials, spanning from the company’s start in 1958 to 2008, are available for our patrons to see and study here in our reading room. Among their contents  are choreographic commissions and teaching notes, photographs, correspondence and business papers, as well as production documents, costume designs, programs, publicity, and moving images (available at our sister division, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound).

People often equate archivists and “gatherers”: we are that indeed. But our collecting is far from hoarding – we collect to share with the world. And on days like today, we also celebrate the lives and careers of the creators whose papers we preserve. Happy birthday, Alvin Ailey!


  1. happy new year-I wish you the best in your health ,wealth and happiness -happy birth day

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