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Film Review: “Ailey” (2021)

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Rating: 4 out of 5.

Dancing is an important element that helps tell the story of love, passion, struggle, pain and even death. It also reveals the identity of the one who performs it and of those who watch.

From director Jamila Wignot, “Ailey” is a beautifully crafted documentary that centers around Alvin Ailey, an African-American dancer, director, choreographer, and activist who founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. It tells the story of his legacy, as a dancer, poet and a human being. Told through Ailey’s own foundation, accompanied by stunning archival footage, the film perfectly shapes the image of Mr Ailey and what really defined him.

Wignot brings interviews with Don Martin (dancer and childhood friend of Alvin Ailey), Darrin Ross (composer of Lazarus), the iconic Carmen de Lavallade (who was among the original members of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater), Rennie Harris (guest choreographer of Ailey’s Dance Theater) and many more, to reveal so many interesting aspects of Ailey’s history, dance, approach and how he used his dance moves to protest against civil injustice and tell the story of Black America in the most poignant way.

The level of detail shown in “Ailey” is stunning. Mesmerizing archival footage and the full display of Ailey’s dancing skills or choreography is like a well-scripted film that gets better and better as the documentary progresses. On the other hand, it shows the loneliness of Ailey as well, him being misunderstood and how he remained in the ‘closet’ his entire life. The collection of music, editing and the direction “Ailey” gives everything is what you would wish to see about a grand persona like Alvin Ailey. Wignot does not try to put Ailey on a pedestal. He is already there. What the director does is it provides the perfect explanation of why Ailey reached a level that can’t be beaten by anyone else now or ever.

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