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Free to Dance Dance Timeline


1970 - Bill T. Jones

1970 - Joan M. Brown
The Alvin Ailey American Dance Center opens in a renovated church on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Pearl Lang shares the space. Financial woes force Ailey to announce that the company is broke.

Louis Johnson choreographs the Broadway musical "Purlie," for which he receives a Tony Award nomination. Ex-Ailey dancer George Faison and Debbie Allen are in the cast.

The AAADT begins a State Department-sponsored tour of North Africa and Europe and a six-week tour of the Soviet Union. Ailey is the first American modern dance choreographer to present works in the USSR since Isadora Duncan. Russian audiences lavish the company with 20-minute standing ovations.

Bill T. Jones and Arnie Zane perform as the American Dance Asylum.

Garth Fagan, who comes out of the Jamaican National Company, creates The Bottom of the Bucket, But ... Dance Theatre in Rochester, New York.

THE FEET, an Afro-centric dance magazine is launched, with Carole Y. Johnson, a member of the Eleo Pomare company, as its editor. It is later edited by Alicia Adams, with contributions from Chuck Davis, Rod Rodgers, Zita Allen, and others.

Alvin Ailey choreographs "The River" for American Ballet Theatre. It is one of many works he will create for major ballet companies.

Joan Myers Brown founds Philadanco, proving black professional dance companies can prosper beyond New York. The company attracts a wide range of choreographers like Gene Hill Sagan, Milton Myers, and Ron K. Brown. Others, like Anne Williams of Dallas Black Dance and Cleo Parker Robinson, will follow in her footsteps.


1971 - DTH
Alvin Ailey's solo "Cry" for Judith Jamison is a resounding success. Ailey dedicates the dance to all black women everywhere, "especially our mothers."

Arthur Mitchell's Dance Theatre of Harlem makes its official debut in the lobby of the Guggenheim Museum. Karel Shook, former ballet teacher at the Dunham School now teaches DTH dancers.

On May 4, Merce Cunningham dancer Gus Solomons, jr. presents "Urban Recreation/The Ultimate Pastorale" at the Judson Dance Theater. He is one of a handful of African-American dancers in the post-modern movement. Dianne McIntyre is one of the dancers in his company.

George Faison forms the George Faison Universal Dance Experience with a repertoire that includes "Suite Otis," "Gazelle," and "Poppy." He begins to stage concerts for major recording artists like Stevie Wonder, Earth, Wind & Fire, and Ashford & Simpson.

1973 DANCE MAGAZINE makes Zita Allen its first African-American dance critic in response to concerns voiced by the Black Choreographers Association.

1974 George Faison is the first African-American choreographer to win a Tony Award for his work on the Broadway musical "The Wiz."

DTH gives its first major New York season.

Ailey II, the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble, is established under the directorship of former Ailey dancer Sylvia Waters.

1975 Louis Johnson, follows in the footsteps of Katherine Dunham when he accepts an invitation to choreograph the Metropolitan Opera's production of "Aida." He will later choreograph for DTH and AAADT, among other troupes.

The dance world pays tribute to Dunham dancer Syvilla Fort before she passes.

1976 The dance series DANCE IN AMERICA premieres on the public television station Thirteen/WNET New York.

Alvin Ailey makes "Pas de Duke" for American Ballet Theatre star Mikhail Baryshnikov and Judith Jamison. Baryshnikov, who had seen the Ailey company during its Soviet tour, asked Ailey to create a dance especially for him.