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Judith Jamison was born on this date in 1943. She is a Black modern dancer, dance director, educator, and author.
From Philadelphia, Pa., Jamison received her initial ballet training in her hometown with Marion Cuyjet and left her studies at Fisk University to make her career in dance. She also studied dance and ballet at the Philadelphia Dance Academy, now the University of the Arts, where she later became a visiting distinguished professor. Discovered by Agnes de Mille, Jamison made her New York City debut with the American Ballet Theater. In 1965, Alvin Ailey recruited her for his dance company. Her height (5 feet 10 inches) and elegant, striking presence helped make her an immediate success with the company.
Jamison went on to create roles in many of Ailey's best-known ballets, most notably the tour de force solo "Cry," a tribute to African American women, which became her signature piece. She has performed both in the United States and abroad. Jamison left Ailey's company in 1980, appeared on Broadway in the musical "Sophisticated Ladies," and performed as a guest artist with dance companies worldwide. In 1988, she founded the Jamison Project, which merged with Ailey's company. After Ailey died in December 1989, she succeeded him as artistic director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
She also has choreographed several works, including "Divining" (1984), "Forgotten Time" (1989), and "Hymn" (2000). Jamison's autobiography, "Dancing Spirit," was published in 1993.