Even those not intimately familiar with the modern dance scene have likely heard of Alvin Ailey. Yesterday, on the 30th anniversary of the Ailey’s death and World AIDS Day, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture announced that its collection of photographs documenting the famous choreographer’s dance company are now available to the public online.
The Jack Mitchell Photography of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Collection contains over 10,000 photographs depicting the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater from 1961 to 1994. Photographer Jack Mitchell captured over eighty of Ailey’s choreographed performances, including “Revelations,” Ailey’s most acclaimed piece that tells the story of African American slavery and liberation. The collection also features portraits of the company’s earliest dancers.
In a press release, interim director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture Spencer Crew described how unique this collection is. “It’s particularly difficult to capture the essence of performing arts in photography, yet this collection showcases the ephemeral nature of the performances that made the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater so special to so many audiences around the world,” he said.
The museum acquired the collection in 2013, which it holds in joint ownership with the Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation. The public can view the collection on the Smithsonian’s Online Virtual Archives.