Alvin Ailey, applauded throughout the world as a genius in the discipline of dance, found inspiration in recollections of black music—blues, spirituals, work songs—which surrounded him in his youth. In his autobiography, Ailey discussed the inspiration, creative process and performance of many of his works. REVELATIONS, believed to have been performed for more people than any other ballet created in the twentieth century, receives the most in depth commentary. Ailey introduced his mentors, and numerous notable colleagues in dance and theatre who were influential throughout his career as a dancer, choreographer and founder of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre.
Ailey described his life as being spent in a driven search for identity and self-love. He was profoundly affected by his father’s abandonment. A constant obsession with excellence, which he attributed to the sorrow of having a father he never knew, resulted in masterpieces in dance as well as contributing to his emotional breakdown and manic depression. Ailey honestly discussed his closest professional relationships and his homosexuality. With the same candor he wrote about his disdain for the racism and politics in the world of dance.
The inclusion of short “remembrances” at the end of the book by Ailey’s friends, family, colleagues, and fellow dancers in the Alvin Ailey dance troupe provide even further insight into the character of a man Lena Horne describes as possessing a “combination of great talent and energizing passion.” Black-and-white photographs spanning several decades contribute to the understanding of Ailey and his works. A. Peter Bailey’s writing talents are noteworthy; Ailey’s soul and spirit are clearly present throughout Bailey’s sensitive compilation.