”Ailey” with Jamila Wignot


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Alvin Ailey is alive and well. That is the lasting impression one gets from “Ailey”, filmmaker Jamila Wignot’s vibrant and probing documentary portrait of one of the 20th Century’s greatest artists, the late dancer and choreographer Alvin Ailey. Ailey’s masterworks are still performed throughout the world. The dance company he founded more that 60 years ago, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, continues to thrive. But who was Alvin Ailey? What drove him? What tormented him? How did he loom so large for countless dancers but remain largely an enigma as a man?

In Ken’s deep dive “Top Docs” conversation with Jamila, she discusses the many challenges involved in understanding and visually representing Ailey’s life and legacy. How did she avoid the tropes and traps of the standard documentary portrait? How did she use archival footage in such a way to create a constant sense of movement? What did Bill T. Jones, a dance legend in his own right, say once the camera was turned off? And what were the keys to creating a film that would put the audience in “(Ailey’s) body so that you would be experiencing his life as he experienced it”? Experience our conversation with Jamila on Top Docs now and stream “Ailey”, which is part of PBS’ American Masters series, for free until February 8th at PBS.org.

Follow on twitter:

Jamila @jamilawignot

Top Docs @topdocspod

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