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The student news site of Hoover High School

The Cardinal

The student news site of Hoover High School

The Cardinal


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Alvin Ailey

In honor of Black History Month, every school day The Cardinal will feature a prominent and/or historical Black American, living or dead, who has worked toward change, advancement, and/or world peace. Some of them are heroes, and some are unsung heroes, who deserve recognition, and have made contributions to make society a better place.

Alvin Ailey was born on January 5, 1931 and was was an American dancer, director, choreographer, and activist who founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has become one of the most renowned dance companies in the world. Ailey’s work fused theater, modern dance, ballet, and jazz with Black vernacular, creating hope-fueled choreography that continues to spread global awareness of Black life in America.

As a child in the violently racist and segregated south, during his youth Ailey was barred from interacting with mainstream society.  Looking for greater job prospects, Ailey’s mother departed for Los Angeles in 1941. He arrived a year later, enrolling at George Washington Carver Junior High School, and then graduating into Thomas Jefferson High School.  In high school, Ailey discovered his homosexuality, which added another layer of difference and isolation to his already racially segregated experience. Thus, “like many young gay men eager to corral the sensual impulses of the body, he turned to dance study.

Ailey studied a wide range of dance styles and techniques — from ballet to Native American inspired movement studies — at the Lester Horton Dance School, which was one of the first racially integrated dance schools in the United States.

In 1969, Ailey founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center with the famed Martha Graham Dance Company principal and choreographer Pearl Lang as his co-director of the school. Their aim was to provide access to arts and dance to under-resourced communities. They started off in Brooklyn with 125 students. A year later the school relocated to Manhattan behind the Lincoln Center complex. In 1984, Denise Jefferson assumed directorship. Under her leadership, the school developed a Bachelor of Fine Arts Program in partnership with Fordham University in 1998.

Ailey died from an AIDS-related illness on December 1, 1989, at the age of 58.  On December 9, 1989, over 4,000 mourners attended his funeral at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. The funeral, which lasted two hours, featured his friend Maya Angelou reading an oral interpretation of her poem “For Alvin Ailey,” drumming by Max Roach.

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About the Contributor
Dhalia Arriaga, Staff Writer

Dhalia Arriaga is a junior in Hoover High. She enjoys writing, and by writing she expresses herself and all the emotions that go on in her head. To Dhalia writing isn’t just words written but it’s words that have a story to it. It has a deeper meaning to her that's why she enjoys writing so much. It brings her peace and comfort. Dhalia’s main goal is to make her parents proud. She wants to make her parents proud because she knows that her parents sacrificed so much for her and her sisters. The thought of her parents going to another country and leaving everything behind to give their kids a better life didn't sit right with her. So she wants to show them that she appreciates everything they’ve done by graduating and proving to them that anything is possible when you set your mind to it. Every tear and feeling of exhaustion will end up being worth it once she graduates and is able to say that she made it through those tough high school years. No matter how hard this journey might get she will always try to keep a positive mindset because at times it gets real and the feeling of giving up gets to her but then again she thinks about her immigrant parents who came here with nothing and have given her everything. Dhalia wants to be able to give them so much back for all the love and support she has received. As you can tell Dhalia is very attached to her family. Family means everything to her and enjoys every second she gets with them.