Judith Jamison

Biography of Judith Jamison

Judith Ann Jamison (born May 10, 1943, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) is an American dancer and choreographer, best known as the Artistic Director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

Judith Jamison was born on May 10, 1943 and grew up in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with her mother, father, and older brother. Her father taught her to play the piano,and violin. She was exposed to the prominent art culture in Philadelphia from a very early age. At the age of six, she began her dance training at Judimar School of Dance. There she studied with Marion Cuyjet who became one of Jamison’s early mentors. Under Cuyjet’s tutelage, Jamison studied classical ballet, and modern dance. The Judimar studios were treated as a “holy place” and there was always a sense of performance and theatricality in Cuyjet’s classes. By age eight, Jamison began dancing on pointe and started taking classes in tap dancing, acrobatics, and Dunham technique (which was referred to as “primitive”). A few years later, Cuyjet began sending Jamison to other teachers to advance her dance education. She learned the Cechetti method from Anthony Tudor, founder of the Philadelphia Ballet Guild, and studied with Delores Brown Abelson, a graduate of Judimar who pursued a performance career in New York City before returning to Philadelphia to teach. Throughout high school, Jamison was also member of numerous sports organizations, the Glee Club, and the Philadelphia String Ensemble. She studied Dalcroze Eurhythmics, a system that teaches rhythm through movement. At age seventeen, Jamison graduated from Judimar and began her collegiate studies at Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, where she spent three semesters studying psychology before transferring to Philadelphia Dance Academy. There she studied with James Jamieson, Nadia Chilkovsky, and Yuri Gottschalk. In addition to her technique classes, she took courses in Labanotation, kinesiology, and other dance studies. During this time, she also learned the Horton technique from Joan Kerr, which required great strength, balance, and concentration.

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