Alvin Ailey was a visionary artist who found salvation through dance. An immersive portrait told in his own words and through the creation of a new commission inspired by his life, Ailey fully profiles this brilliant and enigmatic man who, when confronted by a world that refused to embrace him, was determined to build one that would. KIDS FIRST! Film Critic Ashleigh C. comments, “Out of many dance genres, modern dance used to be my least favorite. I found it odd and confusing. That is until I watched the film Ailey. Director Jamlia Wignot takes the documentary into a learning experience not only about Alvin Ailey, but also about the true meaning of interpretive dance.” Selene W. adds, “The film Ailey opens with a moving speech by American actress Cicely Tyson honoring Alvin Ailey for his lifetime contribution to American culture through the performing arts.  Ms. Tyson’s speech sets the tone for the film as she states that he is a “choreographer of the heart” and has the “very spirit that has made him a pied piper of modern dance.”  See their full reviews and interviews below.

Ailey

By Selene W., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 13 

The film Ailey opens with a moving speech by American actress Cicely Tyson honoring Alvin Ailey for his lifetime contribution to American culture through the performing arts.  Ms. Tyson’s speech sets the tone for the film as she states that he is a “choreographer of the heart” and has the “very spirit that has made him a pied piper of modern dance.”  Through dance he “reveals the meaning of things” and has brought a “whole new public to modern dance.”

Ailey is a tribute to Alvin Ailey’s life and work and shows his humble beginnings in a rural area of Texas during the Great Depression.  His relationship with his mother and his childhood history impacted his outlook and expression in dance as he grew up dancing at house parties in his community.  However, Alvin was a rebel and had his own ideas about movement and dance.  As a choreographer he sought to create movement in the search for truth. 

The film interweaves archival footage with interviews from Ailey American Dance Theatre members sharing their experiences at the dance company and Alvin’s impact on dancing through his reenactment of life.  Beautiful movement, agility and sensuality are shown throughout the various dance pieces, exploring the search for emotion by dancing with passion, joy and anger, as well as sorrow.

Director Jamila Wignot weaves everything together and highlights how Alvin Ailey’s life experiences influenced his choreography and programs.  The documentary wouldn’t be complete without the amazing work of archival producer Rebecca Kent and her team, as the footage really brings his life story together.

The message of this film is that innovation and passion can affect change and raise peoples’ consciousness.  The movie, as well as Alvin Ailey’s dancing, is a celebration of life.

I give Ailey 4 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 12 to 18, plus adults. The film releases in theaters July 23, 2021 and if you appreciate dance and body movement you won’t want to miss Ailey.

Ailey
By Ashleigh C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, 17

The documentary Ailey redefines the meaning of contemporary dance and the unconventional form created by choreographer Alvin Ailey.

Ailey is a documentary about the life of choreographer Alvin Ailey, known for creating contemporary dance arrangements such as Revelations and The River. With his own narration and testimonials from people who knew him, we learn who he was, what he went through and how he interpreted his life into dances that later became world renowned.

Out of many dance genres, modern dance used to be my least favorite. I found it odd and confusing. That is until I watched the film Ailey. Director Jamlia Wignot takes the documentary into a learning experience not only about Alvin Ailey, but also about the true meaning of interpretive dance. I enjoy the scenes of the modern Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, showing that his legacy still lives on through dance. This film has many scenes that feel like filler when the narrator is speaking and that gets repetitive over time. I love how this film does not require you to have a general knowledge or passion for dance. It allows the audience to create their own feelings and opinions about what dance means to them.

The message of Ailey is to pursue your passion and use your talent to impact others in a meaningful way. This documentary portrays this message with great success.

I give Ailey 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 10 to 18, plus adults. You can watch Ailey in theatres July 23, 2021.

Keywords: Ailey, Jamila Wignot, Alvin Aley, Lauren DeFilippo, Daniel Bernard, Roumain, Naiti Gamez, Sundance, choreographer, modern dance,


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