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October 12, 2004

Judith Jamison Receives Actors' Equity Foundation's Paul Robeson Award

Judith Jamison, the renowned dancer, choreographer, master teacher, author, and Artistic Director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, has been given the AEA Foundation’s 2004 Paul Robeson Award. The award was presented by Foundation President Carl Harms to Ms. Jamison’s designee, Alvin Ailey School Faculty member Tracy Inman, on Friday, October 8, 2004 in New York City.

“When you mention the name Paul Robeson, you immediately think of his reverberating voice, his commanding performances and his outstanding athleticism,” said Mr. Inman, accepting the award on Ms. Jamison’s behalf. “Paul Robeson was an advocate for civil rights, a pioneer for everyone who dreamed of sharing their unique talents. Because he dared to venture out and share his undeniable talents, audiences opened their hearts, institutions opened their classrooms and theaters opened their doors to African-American history and culture.”

Judith Jamison was appointed Artistic Director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in December 1989 at the request of her mentor, Alvin Ailey. A native of Philadelphia, she studied with Marion Cuyjet, was discovered by Agnes de Mille and made her New York debut with American Ballet Theatre in 1964. She became a member of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in 1965 and danced with the company for 15 years to great acclaim. Recognizing her extraordinary talent, Mr. Ailey created some of his most enduring roles for her, most notably the tour de force solo, Cry. After leaving the Company in 1980, Ms. Jamison appeared as a guest artist with ballet companies all over the world and starred in the hit Broadway musical Sophisticated Ladies. In 1988, she formed her own company, The Jamison Project.

As a highly regarded choreographer, Ms. Jamison has created works for many companies. HERE . . .NOW, commissioned for the 2002 Cultural Olympiad, is her most recent ballet. She choreographed Double Exposure for the Lincoln Center Festival in July 2000. Divining (1984), Rift (1991), Riverside (1995), Sweet Release (1996) and Echo: Far From Home (1998) are other major works she has choreographed for the Company. Hymn, her stirring tribute to Mr. Ailey originally choreographed in 1993, has been restaged for the Company's 45th anniversary season.

Ms. Jamison is a master teacher, lecturer and author. Her autobiography, Dancing Spirit, was edited by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and published by Doubleday in 1993. She is a noted authority on modern dance and an advocate for education in the arts. She is the recipient of many awards and honorary degrees, including a prime time Emmy Award and an American Choreography Award for Outstanding Choreography in the PBS "Great Performances: Dance In America" special, A Hymn for Alvin Ailey, and an honorary doctorate from Howard University. In December 1999, Ms. Jamison was presented with the Kennedy Center Honor, recognizing her lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts. In 2001, she received the Algur H. Meadows Award from Southern Methodist University and was presented with a National Medal of Arts, the most prestigious award presented to artists in the United States. Ms. Jamison carried the Olympic torch during the relay prior to the opening ceremonies in Salt Lake City in 2002. Most recently, she received the “Making a Difference” Award by the NAACP ACT-SO.

As Artistic Director of The Ailey School, Ms. Jamison continues Mr. Ailey's practice of showcasing the talents of emerging choreographers from within the ranks of the Company. She is dedicated to asserting the prominence of the arts in our culture, spearheading initiatives to bring dance into the community and programs that introduce children to the arts. She remains committed to promoting the significance of the Ailey legacy--dance as a medium for honoring the past, celebrating the present and fearlessly reaching into the future.

The Foundation established the Paul Robeson Award in 1974 to recognize a person who best exemplified the principles by which Mr. Robeson lived. It was created by donations from members of the acting profession. For a complete list of recipients, visit www.actorsequity.org/equityawards/robeson_award.html#list.


Remarks by Alvin Ailey Faculty Member Tracy Inman On Behalf of Ms. Judith Jamison

My name is Tracy Inman and I am most honored to accept this award on behalf of Ms. Judith Jamison who is currently touring Asia with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. She deeply regrets that she cannot be here in person to receive this award.

When you mention the name Paul Robeson, you immediately think of his reverberating voice, his commanding performances and his outstanding athleticism. Paul Robeson was an advocate for civil rights, a pioneer for everyone who dreamed of sharing their unique talents. Because he dared to venture out and share his undeniable talents, audiences opened their hearts, institutions opened their classrooms and theaters opened their doors to African-American history and culture. He was a gentleman and scholar.

In 1965 when Ms Jamison joined the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, she had no idea that performing a solo called “Cry” would catapult her to the forefront of the dance world; that the dramatic athleticism of her commanding performances would serve as an inspiration and symbol of strength and courage for thousands who felt that they lacked the typical aesthetic of what a dancer should be; that she too, would be opening doors for aspiring performers around the world.

As choreographer and Artistic Director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, her creativity, insight, humility, integrity and passion have brought the joy of dance to thousands around the world. She is a visionary who has expanded and vaulted the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater to a whole new dimension. She looks into the void and sees possibilities for dancers, students and children. She believes in history and the idea of “Sankofa” which is: “We don’t know where we are going unless we know where we’ve been”. She believes in passing on traditions, by welcoming all of us who have passed through he school and the companies, to come back and share our knowledge and experiences with a new generation of dancers. Her generosity toward her staff and dancers propel us to excel and work even harder to promote the ideals of our craft and to give back to the people; that, which came from the people. She is an ambassador whose skill and leadership has made Mr. Ailey’s dream of building a home for his company a reality.

Ms. Jamison is especially honored to join the outstanding artists who have received this award. For her this recognition resonates as a beacon for all artists who wish to serve humanity because Paul Robeson exemplifies world citizenship. Finally, she would like to sincerely thank The Actors’ Equity Foundation for this acknowledgment.





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