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|Birth:||5th January, 1931|
|Death:||1st December, 1989|
|Profession:||Activist, Choreographer, Founder|
Ailey was born to his 17-year-old mother, Lula Elizabeth Ailey, in Rogers, Texas. ley's first junior high school in California was located in a primarily white school district. As one of the only black students, Ailey felt out of place because of his fear of whites, so the Aileys moved to a predominantly black school district. He matriculated at George Washington Carver Junior High School, and later attended the Thomas Jefferson High School. He sang spirituals in the glee club, wrote poetry, and demonstrated a talent for languages. He regularly attended shows at Lincoln Theater and the Orpheum Theater. Ailey did not become serious about dance until in 1949 his school friend Carmen De Lavallade introduced him to the Hollywood studio of Lester Horton.
Horton's school taught a wide range of dance styles and techniques, including classical ballet, jazz, and Native American dance. Horton's school was also the first multi-racial dance school in the United States. Ailey was, at first, ambivalent about becoming a professional dancer. He had studied Romance languages at various universities in California, but was restless, academically, and took courses as well in the writings of James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, and Carson McCullers. He moved to San Francisco to continue his studies in 1951. There, he met Marguerite Johnson, who later changed her name to Maya Angelou. They occasionally performed a nightclub act called "Al and Rita". Ailey earned a living waiting tables and dancing at the New Orleans Champagne Supper Club. Eventually, he returned to study dance with Horton in southern California.
Ailey died on December 1, 1989 at the age of 58.
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