Happy Birthday Alvin Ailey! -- January 5, 1931


By Alexander Haimann, Collections Specialist

Today the Smithsonian National Postal Museum is celebrating professional dance choreographer Alvin Ailey’s 79th birthday!

Alvin Ailey stamp, 2004
© United States Postal Service. All rights reserved.

Throughout his career, beginning at the Lester Horton Dance Theater in 1953 to the time of his death in 1989, Alvin Ailey profoundly impacted American dance. Primarily through his own dance company, the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, Ailey developed new and innovative movements and productions by bringing together blues and gospel rhythms with a plethora of dance styles including ballet and modern dance. The portrait of Ailey featured on the 2004 U.S. postage stamp honoring him was taken a year before his death. The six dancers, also shown on the stamp, were performing a section from Ailey’s internationally acclaimed show Revelations in 2000 -- forty-years after Ailey first choreographed it.